A $2 million project being rolled out by West Coast District Health Board will make full health records available electronically to health providers in different fields of practice and in different areas of the Coast.
The West Coast DHB is different to the country’s other health boards in that it directly employs many general practitioners. “We are in a far better position to make records available electronically to the GPs,” says chief financial manager Wayne Champion.
The board employs all the GPs in Westport, one third in the greater Greymouth area and all those from Ross to Haast.
Champion says the key to the broader project is the PRISM (primary and integration services management) project.
“Historically, we’ve had very poor telecommunications on the Coast, particularly south of Hokitika, but Project Probe has enabled us to put in broadband to all except Haast. The solution for Haast was satellite, which doesn’t work well for medical records, so they’re still using paper-based systems.”
With medical records available online, staff can consult on treatment pathways both within the DHB and with specialists in larger hospitals elsewhere. This can also be done in real time.
“Our system gives us a whole new order of speed, efficiency and accuracy in making sure the right patient records are in the right place at the right time,” says Champion.
The $2 million expenditure includes $1.1 million on implementing the iSoft patient management system — that will go live in September or October — and $850,000 on PACS (picture archiving and communications), including $150,000 on a network capacity upgrade and $350,000 on a storage area network.
PACS is a generic solution that around half the hospitals in New Zealand are implementing, Champion says. “But our differentiator is primary health because we own the GP practices and can integrate them into one system.”
The iSoft system is being rolled out in partnership with two other South Island district health boards, Southland and Otago. Southland goes live on April 1, but Otago hasn’t started, Champion says.
Axon is deploying the new hardware and operating system. There is a central server cluster, running Citrix, the new 4TB SAN, and an ethernet network, which is capable of delivering very large files, such as CAT scans and x-rays, across the network.
Part of Axon’s brief is to extend the board’s wide area network to include the GPs and rural nursing clinics owned by the board. There are plans to eventually extend the network to all Coast GPs.