Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 Health Information Standards

Health information standards are a cornerstone of electronic health information exchange because they establish consistency in documenting, exchanging, and interpreting a patient’s health information.

Standard types include:

  • data format standards
  • clinical terminologies standards
  • technical messaging standards

Health information standards are developed by experts in digital health such as clinicians, developers, and informatics professionals. When the need for a provincial standard is identified, a formal proposal is submitted to the B.C. Health Information Standards Working Group (HISWG) and an engagement process is started. Proposals are reviewed against assessment criteria and a recommendation is made to the B.C. Health Information Standards Standing Committee (HISSC) to be considered for endorsement as a provincial standard.

Published standards and their profiles are available in the standards catalogue. Standards in development and proposed standards may also be listed in the standards catalogue.

Point of service systems and users that integrate with health information exchange services (i.e., Client Registry, Provider Registry, PharmaNet, Provincial Laboratory Information Solution, and report distribution services) hosted by the Ministry of Health and/or regional health authorities must meet provincial interoperability and conformance standards. 

Adoption of health information standards (i.e., application, terminology, clinical document architecture, and data standards) are highly recommended as a best practice across B.C.


Health Information Exchange Systems

The Client Registry is the central repository that stores a Personal Health Number (PHN) for every person that receives a health care service in B.C., as well as the corresponding patient demographics. This includes:

  • Personal Health Number (PHN)
  • health authority source system identifiers (e.g. medical record number)
  • name
  • date of birth
  • date of death (if applicable)
  • gender
  • address
  • telephone number

Authorized users with a point of service application integrated with the Client Registry can:

  • search for and capture patient identity information to support care and safe health delivery
  • store client demographics from the client registry in the point of service application
  • update client demographic information in the Client Registry
  • create a personal health number for patients, ensuring every recipient of B.C. health-care services has one

The Provider Registry is the authoritative registry of British Columbia health-care providers’ demographic information such as:

  • name
  • identifiers
  • demographics
  • expertise
  • contact
  • licensing status

This information can be used to maintain internal provider directories within the health sector. The registry also supports activities such as patient referrals and informal consultations between care providers.

Authorized users with a point of service application integrated with the Provider Registry can:

  • search for provider demographic and professional information and store the results in their local application
  • receive real time distributions of updated provider information to store in local directories
  • update a provider’s work location information in the Provider Registry

PharmaNet is the provincial drug information and claims processing system that links all community pharmacies in British Columbia. It contains every prescription dispensed by B.C. community pharmacies. PharmaNet helps pharmacists and other health professionals identify and warn patients about:

  • potentially harmful medication interaction
  • unintended duplications
  • risks from the misuse of prescription drugs

Authorized users with a point of service application integrated with PharmaNet can:

  • submit prescription dispense and claim information
  • access patient medication histories and store them in their local application
  • update patient medication histories with over-the-counter medications, dispensed samples, clinical conditions and adverse drug reactions
  • generate drug monographs for professional information and patient counselling
  • perform drug use evaluations to identify possible drug interactions
  • monitor patient medication adherence by verifying the status of a prescription

The provincial laboratory information solution contains comprehensive diagnostic laboratory test results from private and public laboratories across British Columbia. It allows authorized care providers to:

  • access their patients’ historical and recently published lab results
  • includes tests ordered by other health-care providers
  • access to comprehensive lab results for care providers to make timely and appropriate clinical decisions
  • reduce patient inconvenience by preventing the unnecessary duplication of lab tests

Authorized users with a point of service application integrated with the Provincial Laboratory Information System can:

  • view a summary of all lab results within a specified time period for a patient
  • select lab results reports to retrieve
  • view and store the lab results data in the local software for other clinical decision support purposes


Integration to Ministry Health Information Exchange Systems

Conformance tests will be based on the type of system being integrated. Conformance tests performed may include:

  • application testing
  • storage testing
  • display testing
  • training materials
  • privacy and security measures
  • evaluation of organizational resources
  • other tests if necessary

More information on conformance standards for specific domains can be found here.

The time varies from system-to-system, and will vary depending on the organization’s size and experience. The estimated duration for each step is:

  • vendor inquiry and registration is estimated between 2-12 weeks
  • vendor analysis, design and development is estimated between 5-12 months
  • conformance testing is estimated between 2-3 weeks
  • connect to production is estimated 2 weeks
  • deployment is variable


Reference Implementation

The Ministry’s electronic medical record (EMR) reference implementation, an example of medical practice EMR software integrated with ministry systems through the Health Information Access Layer (HIAL), is available to assist registered EMR software organizations with their interface development. Its use is optional. Additional information about the reference implementation is available in Volume 1 (PDF, 821KB) of the conformance standards.

There are 3 basic requirements.

  1. The prospective client has submitted a Request for Integration Services Form (PDF, 523KB).
  2. The ministry sees the integration interest as viable.
  3. The prospective client has signed a vendor participation agreement.