Healthpoint shows the way, while hospital eyes prize

Computerworld Excellence Awards 2005: Excellence in the Use of IT in Health

A communications project that may be unique in the world and a colour vision test that has major export potential are the finalists in the Excellence in the Use of It in Health category of this year’s Computerworld Excellence Awards.

Healthpoint Ltd runs a free internet site that provides a single access point for doctors, patients and caregivers to source up-to-date information on secondary and tertiary medical healthcare services.

When a patient is referred to a private or public hospital or to a clinic, healthpoint's website will provide information about what to expect prior to, during and following the referral. The information begins at the most basic level: where to go, how to get there, where to park and what facilities and services are provided.

There is an overvew of the therapeutic area, expectations of referral, waiting time and procedures, any costs involved and details of consultants who work in the group.

Healthpoint says it is the first and only product of its kind in New Zealand and, it believes, internationally. The information is patient-focused and service and doctor-specific.

From concept testing through to implementation, Healthpoint was guided by a group of experts and opinion leaders in health. Concept testing was done from January to March 2004, development from April to October, and the site was launched in November with a Counties Manukau District Health Board pilot and with private organisations in Auckland and Dunedin. Now, there are 290 specialists and surgeons on Healthpoint in 60 different sites in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.

All groups on Healthpoint pay an annual subscription and have signed long-term contracts.

The other finalist is Christchurch Hospital, which has developed a computerised scanning program to automate the FM 100-hue colour vision test that is the standard method for colour vision testing.

The hospital says the new system has been in routine use for two years and has proved to be of great assistance in saving time and eliminating arithmetic errors in scoring calculations. The scanner technique produces a report four minutes after the patient has finished and can be instantly sent to the referring clinician by email for diagnosis. This contrasts with conventional manual scoring and plotting that takes around 60 minutes.

“The manual method was so time-consuming that the report was often prepared outside working hours or in-between patients’ appointments and, as a result, the clinician often had to wait for days before a diagnosis could be established,” the hospital says.

The FM 100-hue test can detect acquired defects in colour vision, defects due to disease such as diabetes, glaucoma, drug toxicity, and optic nerve lesions, at an early stage.

The system was developed in the Jade language by the hospital’s electrodiagnostic unit at the department of opthalmology. The hospital is looking to commercialise it throughout the world and is searching for a business partner to help it with marketing.

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