Plunket to spend $12m on bringing records into digital era

New system required to manage records of 100,000 children and their families

The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society is spending $12 million to develop PlunketPlus, a digital system to better manage the records of some 100,000 children and families it looks after.

According to Laurence Greig, manager of PlunketPlus, the initial two year roll out will cost $6 million, with the entire project likely to cost around $12 million.

Greig says the cost is worth it to help improve the service Plunket provides to New Zealand families.

"This is for the sake of improving the effectiveness of our frontline nursing staff, who see 91 percent of New Zealand newborns," says Greig.

Yesterday, PlunketPlus received an additional $1.2 million contribution from the Plunket Foundation towards its development.

PlunketPlus will allow Plunket nurses, administrators, and clinicians to manage an online nationally accessible database.

Frontline nurses will enjoy a new level of mobility, with the ability to access and edit children's development records while visiting families, using tablet devices.

Parents can also view and contribute information on their children's development through an online portal.

According to Greig, PlunketPlus is being developed to comply with the industry standard Health Level Seven message framework (HL7), which would make it compatible with several external agencies including GPs.

"We will be using the exact same format for sending summaries of visits to GPs from nursing visits, and in the same kind of format that would be used in a GP to GP system," says Greig.

Currently, Plunket maintains physiological and learning records of its children using paper, in much the same way since its inception in 1907.

These physical records make maintaining information on a child's well being difficult, especially if families move away from their initial Plunket clinic, says Brenda Hynes, PlunketPlus project manager.

"The problem we have is most of our families are very mobile, and we risk that one day they'll turn up to a clinic and the nurse there will know nothing about them or their child," says Hynes.

Hynes says the earthquakes in Christchurch highlighted the importance of maintaining digital records, with some families from Christchurch moving to other areas being unable to bring their children's records with them.

Plunket announced in June of this year that New Zealand-based Intrahealth has been contracted to develop the system.

Development began shortly after, and a test deployment in Auckland is scheduled for June 2012.

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