Auckland hospitals digitise records

Auckland Healthcare Services has put out a tender for a huge IT project that will turn patient records from all four of its hospitals and over 30 out-centres into electronic forms.

Auckland Healthcare Services has put out a tender for a huge IT project that will turn patient records from all four of its hospitals and over 30 out-centres into electronic forms.

The records project is part of the super-hospital project pulling together Auckland, Starship Children’s, Green Lane and National Women’s hospitals, and precedes a second-phase, multi-milion dollar RFP due out at Christmas.

That second project will link not only patient records but be an “end-to-end clincal system” to manage admissions, costs, supply chains, theatre bookings and digitally-stored x-rays with remote access for GPs. It will later become part of a regional strategy linking other hospitals, most likely using the Health Intranet.

The multi-tiered Auckland project comes as other hospitals, incluidng Good Health Wanganui and Health Waikato – which dumped its Shared Medical System in April – also put out IT tenders.

The hospitals are gearing up for the introduction of district health boards early next year, bringing GPs, community workers and hospitals under one administrative umbrella.

Auckland Healthcare Services (A+) hopes the patient records tender will come in under $5 million, negating the need for it to go through a Ministry of Health review process set up to co-ordinate IT plans for the new environment.

But the second project will be over the limit and require external review.

A+ patient information manager Linda Fletcher says planning for the records project has taken a year. The computerised document imaging system will scan both archived and active paper records and integrate them with electronic ones, to be accessed from any of the sites.

Automated document workflow technology will allow the files to be sent to GPs by email or fax, and later using internet access. Fletcher says the project will start in 2001 and be completed in 2003 when a new central facility opens. It was kick-started by the logistical challenge of future inpatient care being at Grafton and ambulatory care at Green Lane.

It also helps to stop separate files being held at hospitals, day surgery, emergency centres and mental health clinics.

“It’s a way to integrate our information; it’s all about making it easier for clinicians,” says Fletcher, who consulted with over 1000 staff on the project.

An eventual move to paperless records is part of the larger IT plan.

A+ information systems manager Pam Nobbs says as the RFP has not yet been written, technology has not yet been decided on. But she says it will have a web-based front-end with remote access, and take into account GPs to cut costs in external processes like referrals.

Nobbs says South Auckland Health has expressed a wish to be part of the regional intiaitive. The Health Intranet, which links providers using 128-bit encryption, is the preferred option for this but not the only one, she says.

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