Wednesday, 25 February 2009

NSW a silent success in e-health

NSW is leading the country in e-health with both doctors and patients benefiting from new technology, but why wont Health Minister John Della Bosca tell us about it, writes Bryn Evans.

When will some really good health news get some coverage? While the media has recently been fixated by the world financial crisis, political backstabbing, or the misdeeds of the latest rogue doctor, real progress has occurred in NSW e-health that will bring far-reaching benefits to everyone in the state.

On 1 October last year, St George Hospital implemented an electronic medical record system (eMR) for some 2300 clinicians across its emergency department, all wards including pathology and radiology, nine operating theatres and more than 300 outpatients clinics, and allows electronic discharge forms to be sent to general practitioners. The project has been hugely successful, and is the start of a state-wide program by NSW Health to introduce the eMR to every hospital in the state.

The eMR system was first deployed at the St George Hospital in the South Eastern Sydney & Illawarra Area Health Service (SESIAHS), followed by Calvary and Sutherland hospitals, and will be rolled-out to each hospital in the Area Health Service for some 1.3 million people.

All hospitals in the Illawarra region will go live in the next two months, followed by the Northern Coast Area Health Service which is in the middle of its eMR roll out.

In time eMR will spread state-wide.

Some Area Health Services with earlier, less comprehensive eMRs, are planning upgrades.

So why does NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca not tell us about it?

The eMR rollouts mean that patients treated in SESIAHS will have their patient details, medical history, test results and treatment notes updated and instantly available to any clinician attending to them.

No more tedious and inefficient questions such as “Which hospital and doctor did you last see?”, “What did your last test results state?”, “What medication are you on?”, or “Do you have your ultrasound scan with you?” that drive every patient to distraction.

There will be an immense improvement to patient safety as the eMR becomes available everywhere in NSW.

Adoption of an eMR on this scale is the most ground breaking IT project undertaken in Australian healthcare, and NSW Health is leading the way. It is the first step in a journey to provide electronic information that better supports clinicians and brings improved care to patients. Work procedures and practices will be fundamentally transformed as knowledge is shared to provide better patient care.

The eMR finally brings the benefits of ubiquitous online access, akin to electronic banking, within the reach of clinicians and health consumers. It also provides the foundation of information for the personal electronic health record, which health consumers could access over the Internet within the foreseeable future.

But why cannot NSW Health tell the public about this success?

Maybe they are scared of success, and the resulting demands by the Garling Inquiry for more funds to speed up deployment.

For once NSW Health have some really good news. It is following best practice, and has got it right, so they should tell us about it!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Health ignored in stimulus package

By ignoring the health sector in today's stimulus package the Federal Government has missed the opportunity to support one of the most important areas of the Australian economy, according to the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA). The AHHA is the peak national body representing public hospitals, area health services, community health centres and public aged care providers."Health and community services contribute to the overall strength of our economy in a number of ways and should have been a key focus of this stimulus package," said Ms Prue Power, Executive Director, AHHA. "Firstly, health is one of the biggest components of the services sector, the largest section of the Australian economy. Health care is a growth industry which has the potential to further expand with support from the Federal Government. "Secondly, the health sector is one of our nation's largest employers with over 10 per cent of workers being employed in the area of health and community services. With widespread workforce shortages, there is considerable scope to train and employ health care workers throughout the sector thus creating new jobs and meeting existing needs for health care. "Thirdly, the productivity of our workforce depends upon high quality and accessible health care services. When people lack adequate access to health care it can reduce their capacity to work, affecting both them and their families and compromising the overall efficiency of our economy. "There is clear evidence that our health system currently does not perform well in areas such as the diagnosis and management of chronic disease and the provision of preventive dental care. This leads to the development of more serious conditions which can prevent people from seeking or continuing in employment. "AHHA urges the Federal Government to expand the suite of initiatives contained in today's stimulus package to include an injection of funds into the health sector, in particular focussing on the critical areas of infrastructure and workforce. "This would enable health services to upgrade their infrastructure, train more health care workers and increase the provision of essential health care to the Australian population, providing flow-on benefits to the economy and resulting in a healthier and more productive workforce," Ms Power said.

HealthSmart gets new head

By: Suzanne Tindal

The Victorian Department of Human Services has appointed a new CIO of health services who will also lead up the state's HealthSmart electronic health initiative.
Dr Andrew Howard, not the same Andrew Howard who holds the CIO position for the whole department and had previously been acting National E-Health Transition Authority CEO, will start next week.
A spokesperson for the Department of Human Services was sure there would be ample confusion caused by the two like-named CIOs.
The incoming CIO's role will include taking responsibility of HealthSmart, filling the shoes of Fiona Wilson who left last September.
HealthSmart began as a four-year, $320 million project to update IT systems in hospitals and other medical facilities right across Victoria, but has encountered deadline and budget problems.
Howard has had a medical career within the Victorian public health system, the spokesperson said, but has also held positions in the private sector at corporations such as NEC.