Lab Canada

Technology for tracking metabolic screening wins national technology award

Edmonton, AB – January 5, 2004 – Award-winning technology has ensured that an average of 800 additional babies were screened for inherited disorders each year across Alberta since 1999.

The Internet-based tracking system, developed by Alberta Wellnet, uses a patient’s provincial health number to match birth records with blood test results from Alberta’s Newborn Metabolic Screening program. The result has been quicker and more accurate identification of infants who need treatment or additional screening, as well as those who missed a screening.

Newborn Metabolic Screening tests for early detection of three inherited disorders: congenital hypothyroidism, phenylketonuria or PKU, and biotinidase deficiency. If identified by the time an infant is seven days old, these conditions can be treated immediately, minimizing the impact for infants and families alike. Untreated, the cost to patients and the health system is significant – an estimated $700,000 per diagnosis.

“This Internet technology may reduce suffering in newborns, anguish for family members, and financial costs associated with treating these metabolic ailments across the entire province,” says Gary Mar, Alberta’s minister of health and wellness. “It is wonderful to see technology improve more than just operational efficiencies, but also help protect the quality of children’s lives.”

The innovative nature of the solution was recognized by the Canadian Information Productivity Award (CIPA) program, which honoured Alberta Wellnet, a branch of Alberta Health and Wellness, with its award of excellence in the category of Efficiency and Operational Improvement.

“The efforts of our team – practitioners, technology experts and program staff impressed the award judges as much as they impressed their department colleagues,” says Mar.

The award, presented in the public sector category at the CIPA awards in Toronto on November 18, featured Canadian leaders from government, academia and industry. A total of 13 winners were selected from 76 finalists in three major categories.

The Newborn Metabolic Screening program was based on an innovative business approach to identifying a common screening process. The investment made in improving the screening process and developing the technology for it is valuable, and will be re-used and applied to future screening programs in the health sector.