Health looks to ICT to deliver better patient care

West Coast District Health Board, Research Review and the National Paediatric Oncology Steering Group are finalists in the Use of ICT in Health category

Wherever GP Greville Wood is on the road, his office is always with him. As Dr Wood tours the huge, sparsely populated West Coast district, he has access to all his records, patient details and other data and can equally interact with other health centres and professionals, even when in the smallest town.

Hospital x-rays can also be ‘viewed’ across the region and blood test results can be given to patients within ten minutes of the completion of their analysis, all thanks to the Integrated Electronic Health Record project by the West Coast District Health Board.

“We can interact with patients at the same time because we have a common note. It’s a lot easier for us to communicate as health professionals and deliver a service,” he says.

By using technology to deliver a more accurate and faster service, West Coast DHB believes this will deliver better health outcomes.

“It’s quite exciting. Patients for the most part have seen the benefits. It’s all being done in an environment mindful of security and confidentiality,” Dr Wood concludes.

West Coast DHB claims to be “revolutionising health IT”, with its two-year information-based projects under its Integrated Electronic Health Record.

Spearheaded by CIO Wayne Champion, the DHB has installed a PrISM (Primary Information Systems Management) system across its 16 regional sites; plus a complete hospital IT system including hardware and local area network.

A PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications System) digital radiology system also means the radiology department has gone film-less and sends x-rays digitally.

This is also linked to an iSoft patient administration system, plus MedTech 32 GP practice software that operates over a Citrix thin-client operating system.

In his Excellence Awards submission, Champion says computerising the clinics offers shared information, eliminating the need for separate paper-based records and allows patient details to be seen across the region. Sharing data with other hospitals and radiology specialists also improves patient care.

Such is the ‘success’ of the project, the DHB is looking to extend it to dental and mobile health services. The Ministry of Health is also looking at creating a similar National Network, incorporating the country’s 17,000 GPs, pharmacists and associated health providers.

Sharing information is also the theme of the next two finalists in the Computerworld Excellence Awards Excellence in the Use of ICT in Health category.

Auckland-based Research Review has developed a service to help medics cope with the 10,000 or more medical journals that are published every month.

The company produces an online summary of the most relevant findings for New Zealand doctors, adding expert commentary to explain the significance of a report.

Managing director David Cadzow says medics “get flooded” with information, while typical GPs still need to see 35-40 patients a day.

His free and sponsored Research Review service gives specialist information to suit particular health professionals, saving them time in getting the information. Its online nature also means such information reaches more diverse areas, both geographically and socially than ever before, Cadzow adds.

Christchurch Hospital Respitory Physician Lutz Beckert confirms the service, a New Zealand-first, is ‘wonderful’, adding it helps his junior staff pick the best antibiotics to use. Becket also enjoys the ‘short messages’ delivered online, always with active hyperlinks.

“Locums in the UK are envious,” he adds.

Finally, the LEAP IT (Late Effects Assessment Programme Information Technology) project, headed by Christchurch-based Dr Michael Sullivan of the National Paediatric Oncology Steering Group, created an online clinical tool to manage children and young people who have completed cancer therapy.

The Child Cancer Foundation sponsored the project with $600,000 over three years, with a happy CEO Jim Barclay crediting Dr Sullivan and his team for being “very clever” in developing health passports for young treatment survivors.

The system allows illnesses associated with the long-term effects of cancer treatments to be tracked throughout the life of the patient, leading to better care and understanding of the patient’s medical history and at the same time providing a research database to see which kinds of treatments and therapies produce the best results.

The passports allow young cancer survivors to move around the country and the world and take their medial histories with them should any issues arise in later life.

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