After many promises and trials, NSW Health has committed $100 million over the next two years to replace existing paper-based health records in public hospitals with a state-wide electronic system aimed at improving patient care.
NSW Health anticipates the new electronic medical record (eMR) technology will make it easier for doctors and nurses to track the condition of patients through the health system as hospital information will be linked between facilities electronically.
Minister for Health, John Della Bosca, said the $100 million project will be rolled out to 188 hospitals across the state by the end of 2010.
“The new eMR replaces many existing paper records and makes secure patient information available to authorised clinicians from computer workstations across the hospital,” Della Bosca said.
“A major benefit of the eMR program is the completeness of patient data and information on medical orders.”
Healthelink now claims 70,000 subscribers.
Della Bosca said prior to the introduction of eMR, some requests for medical imaging and pathology could require referral back to the requesting clinician due to incomplete or illegible hand-written records.
“This technology will improve the efficiency of hospital care and free up doctors and nurses to focus on patients and not paperwork which will further improve patient safety,” he said.
The benefits for patients include decreased delays in retrieving clinical information; better availability of integrated patient information; reduced duplication of orders for diagnostic tests; and, most importantly, a reduction in the potential for errors.
The benefits for health professionals include better access to patient history, the ability to record care where and when it is needed, and to be prompted with alerts.
In an inquiry into NSW public health services, Peter Garling SC recommended the implementation of the eMR into hospitals as a way of improving the sharing of information and communication among medical teams.
Della Bosca said the eMR is one of the cornerstone projects of NSW Health’s ICT strategy, which is modernising the way health services are supported in NSW.
“Results from the initial trials and roll-out reveal a positive take up of the new technology by clinicians, demonstrated by the use of electronic medical orders to request blood tests and x-rays,” he said.
“Delivering a state-wide eMR will help provide consistent delivery of quality health care for patients in both rural and metropolitan hospitals.”