A patient health ICT system being rolled out by the Waikato District Health Board could reduce the number of mistakes that cost patients’ lives.
Laboratory and radiography results are already being sent through the new system.
Jenny Gibb, lecturer at the strategy and human resource management department of Waikato Management School, says the system should reduce the potential for medical error.
“Ultimately, the system is aimed at providing improved patient safety and care,” says Gibb. This will come about through a reduction in the potential for medical error, increased access to up-to-date information for primary health providers and more detailed information exchange via standardised templates, where possible, says Gibb.
Beyond that, the system will result in savings for primary health providers, she says. Larger GP practices can afford to scan paper documents into patients’ files, but small practices can’t afford to buy the scanning equipment, nor the labour cost of the daily entry required.
“The system is going to be a huge benefit [for small practices] and for the patients because, when they come to see a doctor, the doctor will have all the up-to-date information,” says Gibb.
“Electronic transmission of data and a more streamlined system will also reduce costs for the DHB,” she says.
Gibb’s research shows that primary health providers want the system to provide them with information on patient admission, patient discharge, outpatient appointment notifications and operation procedures. They also want to see more precise data exchange between general practitioners and specialists in the DHB, says Gibb.
The biggest challenge, at this stage, is to ensure that the system is implemented sooner rather than later, she says.
“The system has been planned for some time now and most GPs in the Waikato want to go ahead with the system as soon as possible.”
The Waikato DHB is being slowed down by having to make sure that the system complies with regulations and that it addresses the needs of everybody involved in using it, says Gibb.
Another big challenge is patient confidentiality.
“It can, potentially, be a problem if the information isn’t managed well,” she says.
Some patient health systems can automatically share information across many GP practices. However, the Waikato system will only send information between the DHB and the GP directly involved with the patient, says Gibb. She adds that patients can have their personal information removed from the system if they wish.
The ideal situation in the future would be to have a fully integrated technology system connected to a national e-pharmacy, says Gibb. But, there is a need for government funding here, she says.
“If you look at the e-pharmacy that is implemented in Australia it is an excellent system but very costly.”
In the long run an e-pharmacy would save money, however set-up costs are high, she says.