When will some really good health news get some coverage? While the media has recently been fixated by the world financial crisis, political backstabbing, or the misdeeds of the latest rogue doctor, real progress has occurred in NSW e-health that will bring far-reaching benefits to everyone in the state.
On 1 October last year, St George Hospital implemented an electronic medical record system (eMR) for some 2300 clinicians across its emergency department, all wards including pathology and radiology, nine operating theatres and more than 300 outpatients clinics, and allows electronic discharge forms to be sent to general practitioners. The project has been hugely successful, and is the start of a state-wide program by NSW Health to introduce the eMR to every hospital in the state.
The eMR system was first deployed at the St George Hospital in the South Eastern Sydney & Illawarra Area Health Service (SESIAHS), followed by Calvary and Sutherland hospitals, and will be rolled-out to each hospital in the Area Health Service for some 1.3 million people.
All hospitals in the Illawarra region will go live in the next two months, followed by the Northern Coast Area Health Service which is in the middle of its eMR roll out.
In time eMR will spread state-wide.
Some Area Health Services with earlier, less comprehensive eMRs, are planning upgrades.
So why does NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca not tell us about it?
The eMR rollouts mean that patients treated in SESIAHS will have their patient details, medical history, test results and treatment notes updated and instantly available to any clinician attending to them.
No more tedious and inefficient questions such as “Which hospital and doctor did you last see?”, “What did your last test results state?”, “What medication are you on?”, or “Do you have your ultrasound scan with you?” that drive every patient to distraction.
There will be an immense improvement to patient safety as the eMR becomes available everywhere in NSW.
Adoption of an eMR on this scale is the most ground breaking IT project undertaken in Australian healthcare, and NSW Health is leading the way. It is the first step in a journey to provide electronic information that better supports clinicians and brings improved care to patients. Work procedures and practices will be fundamentally transformed as knowledge is shared to provide better patient care.
The eMR finally brings the benefits of ubiquitous online access, akin to electronic banking, within the reach of clinicians and health consumers. It also provides the foundation of information for the personal electronic health record, which health consumers could access over the Internet within the foreseeable future.
But why cannot NSW Health tell the public about this success?
Maybe they are scared of success, and the resulting demands by the Garling Inquiry for more funds to speed up deployment.
For once NSW Health have some really good news. It is following best practice, and has got it right, so they should tell us about it!
Bryn Evans is chief executive of healthcare provider Ascribe