Charmaine Chisholm and her team transform data into valuable information that supports the delivery of quality care

Charmaine Chisholm and her team transform data into valuable information that supports the delivery of quality care

By Lauren MacDougall, Nova Scotia Health Public Engagement and Communications 

A photo of Charmaine Chisholm on the right and her german shepherd on the left

As soon as you speak with Charmaine Chisholm, CHIM, her enthusiasm for her role at Nova Scotia Health is evident. She is passionate about standardization, approaching work from a provincial perspective, ongoing quality improvement and supporting Nova Scotians to be healthier. 

As the business operations leader for the Information Management and Technology Health Information Services team (IM/IT-HIS), Charmaine manages the newly created Health Information Services (HIS) Provincial Forms and Projects team. She is responsible for the development of health information management strategy, provincial policies and consolidated practices as well as project management and leading actions in support of ongoing delivery of care. As the Business Operations Leader Charmaine’s influence extends to other teams within the HIS portfolio, including admitting and registration, switchboard, health records, quality, transcription, coding and abstracting, and release of information. 

Born in Ontario, Charmaine moved to Antigonish at age two, where she lived until she graduated from high school. Following graduation, she moved back to Ontario for her post-secondary studies. She began her career in Ontario and was employed at various hospitals and physician offices. In 2013, Nova Scotia drew her back to her roots and her hometown of Antigonish. 

Health Information Professionals Week (October 4 – 8) is an opportunity to draw attention to the vital work of Charmaine and her colleagues at Nova Scotia Health and the profession at large. This year’s theme is Futureproof which will focus on how the future will impact the work of health information professionals as well as highlight new efficiencies and best practices and how those impact business/health outcomes. 

“Behind the scenes, our HIS teams quietly perform many important roles within the health system,” says Chisholm. As the Information Management (IM) component of the organization’s IM/IT team, the members of HIS are part of a growing number of professionals who are certified members of the Canadian Health Information Management Association (CHIMA) and the Canadian College of Health Information Management. 

“Being able to access vital patient information quickly supports the delivery of quality patient care.” – Charmaine Chisholm, Business Operations Leader, Nova Scotia HealthIM/IT

One of the many services offered by the IM/IT-HIS team is supporting the accuracy and timeliness of patient information through initiatives such as scanning patient information into a scanned document archive, so it is accessible to authorized health care providers. “Being able to access vital patient information quickly supports the delivery of quality patient care,” says Chisholm. “For example, if a patient arrives at an emergency department on a weekend, the paper record stored in the clinic setting wouldn’t be readily available, but scanned images allow clinicians access to vital health information to support their current delivery of care.” Accessing documentation electronically improves the security and privacy of personal health information and supports the ability to track and audit chart access. 

Inspired by lots of time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new interest in gardening has provided Charmaine with a creative outlet and an opportunity to do something that helps her recharge. Another passion that is near to her heart is breeding German Shepherds, which keeps her and her family very busy, especially when a new litter arrives. 

During the pandemic, the HIS team had a key role in developing COVID-related forms to support health care providers in capturing the information needed to provide care to our patients. The team was also involved in supporting the set-up and operation of the primary assessment centres, student COVID testing centres and pop-up testing in communities across the province. In addition to building forms, they established booking and registration best practices and registered patients at the various COVID-19 assessments locations. 

As a result of her expertise, Charmaine was assigned to support Nova Scotia Health’s Mental Health and Addictions (MHA) services team through the transition from paper to a scanned document archive. She provided in-person clinical documentation preparation education to over 130 administrators and managers across the province. The training promoted a team approach between clinical services (e.g., MHA) and HIS to facilitate timely access to all MHA outpatient clinical documents. 

The MHA initiative ensures clinical teams have access to a patient’s complete health record when they present for treatment at a Nova Scotia Health facility. The transition from paper to images stored in a scanned document archive significantly improves the MHA team’s ability to provide quality treatment and enhance patient safety and privacy as they receive treatment across the continuum of care. Within the next few years, the dependency on paper will diminish significantly as more and more information is available electronically. 

These are just some of the ways that IM/IT’s HIS team is working to improve and modernize health care in Nova Scotia. They support Nova Scotia Health’s vision of healthy people, health communities – for generations by ensuring that health care providers and decision-makers can access quality, consistent patient data throughout the patient’s journey to wellness. 

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