NZ tops for health information exchange

On average general practitioners exchange information with 58 other practices every month

New Zealand has been ranked number one in cross-sector health information exchange by the Commonwealth Fund in its 2012 survey of 11 countries.

The fund is a private foundation, established in 1918, to promote high-performing healthcare systems.

By comparison, Australia ranked ninth.

The average New Zealand general practice exchanges information with 58 other parties in any given month, according to HealthLink CEO Tom Bowden. HealthLink is the main provider of electronic exchange technology for doctors.

"We have recently reviewed New Zealand general practices' use of electronic communications and found that they are using HealthLink to communicate with 72 other organisations each month," he says.

"Most of this communication uses the messaging systems that HealthLink has had in place for many years but, increasingly, practices are beginning to use online referrals, eLab and similar online services, which have now been installed in approximately 50 percent of general practices over the past two years."

HealthLink's CareInsight tool for performing online inquiries recently recorded its 5000th patient look-up, with nearly 1000 queries in November alone.

Bowden says three new CareInsight services will be introduced next year.

In Canterbury, the South Island's Alliance electronic referral system recently clocked up its 100,000th referral. More than three-quarters of all referrals made to the Canterbury District Health Board are made using the new system.

Planning is under way to roll out the system to the rest of the South Island.

The electronic referral system replaces paper-based letters when referring patients between health practitioners: for example, when a GP refers a patient to see a hospital specialist.

Andrew Bowers, chair of the South Island Alliance Information Services workstream, says feedback on the new system has been very positive.

The alliance is made up of the five South Island DHBs.

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