Health service dumps manual checks for online action

The Illawarra Area Health Service (IAHS) has moved to replace phone- and fax-based patient administration by signing up with the Thelma B2B healthcare industry exchange.

Bill Morfis, director of finance and administration, IAHS, said that Thelma (Transactional Health Exchange Linking Multiple Applications) enables online checks with health funds of patients' eligibility for hospital admittance.

"We're going to be able to check, for instance, whether patients are entitled to their own rooms or shared rooms, and get information about what their [premium] excess is", Morfis said. "There has always been a difficulty in explaining the insurance coverage details to patients.

"It will replace a manual system involving ringing and faxing, and will bring many benefits, especially for out-of-hours admissions where we have to wait until the next day for a response," Morfis said.

"An ROI [analysis] was not really required as the investment was minimal; it will be paid for on a transaction basis," he added. "Thelma will be used by all admin staff and we expect a huge benefit.

"I spoke with South East and Wentworth Area health services, which have put it in during the last two to three months and they're fairly happy with it. I discussed it with our IT director to get his input; the IT staff will operate in a support role as well as check out the older PCs to ensure they're OK to run it. But it's just about getting hooked up to the Web."

According to Thelma provider ICSGlobal, the service generates subscription and transaction revenue by replacing existing manual, paper-based health administration processes with B2B transactions over the Internet. Thelma "could be thought of as a clearing house for the health industry".

ICSGlobal believes that the e-health electronic transaction market in Australia has a potential value in excess of $100 million a year.

Illawarra Health provides healthcare through nine hospitals in Illawarra and Shoalhaven, covering five per cent of the NSW population. Along with Thelma's other contracted healthcare services, South East Health and Wentworth Area Health Service, the service provides connectivity to 22 per cent of the NSW public hospital system, according to ICSGlobal.

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