IT vital part of new Auckland hospital

AUCKLAND (09/29/2003) - When Auckland's new hospital opens next week, wireless LANs and electronic patient records will be as much a part of it as the beds, patients and medical staff.

The NZ$200 million (US$118 million), nine-level Auckland City Hospital admits its first patients on Oct. 4 and a NZ$30 million IT spend, spread over three years, has been part of the project, says Nigel Murray, the Auckland District Health Board's building program general manager.

"NZ$10 million was spent on picture archiving, NZ$10 million on patient record scanning and NZ$8 million on patient clinical software, with the rest on infrastructure." What would also be described as infrastructure, such as servers and other hardware, was included under picture archiving (of radiology images) and scanning where it was used for those projects.

Image archiving involved implementation of PACS (picture archiving and communication system) and record scanning was done under the banner of Creame (clinical record access made easy), a project to scan the mountain of paper patient notes held by the DHB.

Creame worked by scanning existing paper records and, once in electronic form, further data from clinical software such as Web Eclair, the DHB's lab results reporting system, is added to the patient's record.

Web Eclair is also being used by Counties Manukau and Waitemata DHBs, meaning the three Auckland-based DHBs can exchange lab test data almost in real time and, if a patient moves between DHBs in the course of their care, the results can be easily transferred.

Auckland DHB CIO Steven Mayo-Smith says cooperation with the other two DHBs will increase under the new hospital setup.

"We're working on a single information services strategic plan for the three DHBs." PACS and Creame were begun two years ago and Mayo-Smith says Auckland DHB chose to do those major projects, then add more applications, such as Sysmex Delphic's Web Eclair and Orion Systems' Concerto portal to its repertoire of clinical systems, rather than go for a big bang, ERP-type approach.

"The question is, do you go for ERP with everything in one system or do you integrate from all systems to give a single view?" Auckland DHB's approach allowed it to continue using systems that were already in place and pull them together so users have single view capability.

A key feature of the new hospital not seen at the old one is wireless networking.

While tested at the Starship Childrens' hospital, wireless LANs weren't part of the IT landscape at the old facility. But the DHB was convinced enough of their merit to use them at the new hospital, Mayo-Smith says.

The hospital is using HP iPAQ portables and Mayo-Smith says while they are less than ideal now, "another two generations of hardware will see far more effective use".

However, the fact the technology isn't perfect yet doesn't mean it shouldn't be adopted now, he says.

The iPAQs have the capability to offer biometric fingerprint user authentication, but that remains an option for the future, with no immediate plans to replace passwords, he says.

The DHB also has plans to extend wireless capability beyond the hospital, allowing doctors to access applications via the Vodafone network.

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