Tassie health preps electronic records

Accurate medical records vital for improved treatment

Following the successful trial of mobile electronic patient care information at the Tasmanian Ambulance Service (TAS), the state's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is now looking at a wider electronic health records system.

Like most other state health departments, Tasmania's DHHS must contend with a number of siloed information storage methods - from plain paper to mainframe computer, and now mobile applications - but it has a vision to arrive at one central repository of data.

DHHS procurement officer Lisa Wilson told Computerworld there are different e-health projects in Tasmania, but the overall goal is to have a central record because "people can be easily mistaken".

There is a GP assist project, and hospitals produce patient discharge summaries, so eventually there will be a flow of information from first consultation to discharge.

"We have the e-index to match patient records and we want that record of care on the ambulance side and hopefully one day we will be able to tap into that to get previous history of people once they are discharged," Wilson said.

As reported by Computerworld, the DHHS has procured Toughbook computers for the TAS to streamline the access to patient medical records, but this is only one part of the wider Electronic Patient Care Record (ePCR) vision.

The three main public hospitals in Tasmania use patient record software from vendor iSoft, which, according to Wilson, is used at around 80 percent of public hospitals in Australia.

DHHS has now contracted a vendor to develop a HL7 specification for TAS which will be used to develop an interface to iSoft.

The department is about one month away from completing the specifications to integrate the Toughbooks with iSoft, which will need to be certified with the national collaborative centre for e-health.

A central electronic record will only be achieved when the legacy mainframe-based HOMER system is integrated.

Wilson said HOMER is in all three public hospitals and each system "doesn't talk to each other".

"Eventually we want to integrate HOMER with the hospital system," Wilson said, adding HOMER is in the process of being replaced.

"The idea is that we will all be able to contribute to a national database because we want to analyze data," she said. "We've got clinical support officers that do it all by hand, so we're not reporting on what we have and there has been limited reporting other than manual. So the big change is reporting on how patients are treated."

Regarding the use of Toughbook computers, Wilson said the ambulance officers trained for the pilot project have continued to use them - about 40 staff in total.

"At first it slowed them down because of the learning curve, but now they can do it in less time than before and it's definitely more accurate and more legible," she said.

The plan is to have the ambulance software, originally from Victoria's Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS) to populate the hospitals' iSoft systems when a penitent enters.

It will also integrate with the dispatch system, hence the requirement for Telstra Next G cards in the Toughbooks.

TAS' data is still housed in a database in Melbourne, but Wilson wants to get the server hosted inside the DHHS network locally.

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