Friday, February 20, 2009

Info For New Users

There are two different types of new OSCAR users:
  • those that are trying to get themselves up and running

  • those that have gotten help to get up and running and are now looking to improve their skills

The Self Starter - Getting Installed

If you are trying to get yourself up and running, then you will need to install OSCAR on a UNIX server. There are instructions available for those that are technically savvy.

A second option for the self starter is to acquire OSCAR preinstalled from the OSCAR Canada Users Society.

The OSCAR server is a machine that will attach to your network and sit in a corner or a closet in your office. It is good practice to ensure your OSCAR server is powered via an Uninterruptible Power Supply (750 Volt-Amps should be adequate for a simple installation). It is also recommended to consider a robust backup strategy. Because of the nature of the system, it is quite easy to configure an automated process that provides both local and remote backups.

Typically, OSCAR is not accessed directly on the server machine, but over your local area network via the web browser of your various office computers.

If your office has internet access, then you will be able to access OSCAR from your computer at home as well. Remote access is greatly simplified when your office internet has a fixed IP address. If your office is internet enabled, then you will need to ensure that you properly review and understand your computer security.

OSCAR works with Macs, PCs, and Unix workstations (virtually any modern computer with a web browser). Some doctors configure their offices with a computer in every room, while others opt for using an ultralight laptop that they carry with them instead of the traditional paper patient chart.

If you do use your laptops and desktops with a wireless network, please purchase a modern router with the latest encryption standards, as currently all but the WPA2 AES standard have been hacked.

OSCAR will work with voice recognition software, but many doctors recommend the PC version of Dragon Voice over its Mac cousin.

OSCAR can electronically generate prescriptions and other forms and documents, so it is a good idea to have network capable laser printers available in convenient locations. Wired network printers tend to start printing quicker than their wireless brethren, so this may be a useful consideration.

Scanning documents into OSCAR is also supported. Many users recommend purchasing a dedicated departmental workgroup scanner (such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap or Visioneer Patriot).

OSCAR supports automatic electronic lab uploads from a number of different sources, and each comes with different infrastructural requirements. Gamma, for example, allows you to log into their website and download the current batch of lab files, so naturally you will need internet access for this to work. Lifelabs and CML both have a dialup modem configuration that requires a WinXP computer and a dedicated phone line. Other labs such as ICL and Excelleris have their own specialized requirements. You will need to check to see specifically what your lab needs before investing in infrastructure.

Depending on province, OSCAR may support your local billing environment. In Ontario, for example, a computer with a modem is needed to access OHIP's EDT. You can also put your billing files on a floppy disk and send it to the government, although, finding a computer with a floppy drive these days is non-trivial.

Once OSCAR is up and running, you may wish to consult with the OSCAR User Manual to help you learn the bits and bobs.

Now That You Are Up And Running

Not everyone wants to install and configure OSCAR themselves. There are a number of OSCAR support companies that are happy to deliver a soup to nuts solution, train you and your staff, and support you through your migration to electronic medical records.

Once you are installed, trained, and feeling comfortable with OSCAR, there are many ways for you to enhance your environment and engage with the OSCAR community.

You may consider joining the OSCAR Canada Users Society. The OCUS has regular meetings in various locations across Canada. The national users group is also a good place to find out more about your regional and local OSCAR communities.

A number of OSCAR users participate in lively discussions on improving their patient care and best practice strategies when using OSCAR. The easiest way to engage with other users is to join the mailing list, introduce yourself, and join the discussion. (Please note that the main national users mailing list is the oscarmcmaster-bc-users list which is linked above.)

If you are an OSCAR user with a flair for the technical details and a desire to contribute code to the project, than a second discussion list is available for you.

Many users have made available their own contributions, in the form of user installable extensions to OSCAR. By browsing the resources, you will be able to find new forms, drawing packages, report templates, and queries.

There are also resources to show you how to build your own extensions.

After you've used OSCAR for a while, you may start thinking about improvements you'd like to see in the solution. If this is the case, then the thing to do is to check and see if what you are thinking is already on the wishlist. You may also consider making a donation specifically geared towards accelerating a specific piece of functionality.

Remember, the easiest way to engage with the OSCAR community is to register with the OCUS and join the discussion.

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