Clear IT vision ahead for Mater Health Services

Application development leads to department integration

Doubling the rate of eye tissue donations is just one of many positive outcomes for Mater Health Services following the introduction of a new application development platform, InterSystems Ensemble.

Since implementation in March 2010 by the Brisbane-based health provider, a total of 15 applications have been developed including data quality checking, discharge summaries, outpatient appointments and test results acknowledgment, with work for a general practitioner (GP) portal in development.

Ensemble also provides message translation for Healthcare Seven (HL7), an health industry standard which supports structured messages containing complex clinical and administrative data. More than 100,000 HL7 messages are generated by Mater Health Service’s systems daily.

One of the major new apps to be created on the new platform is an eye tissue donation system monitors HL7 messages captured by the electronic patient record from Mater’s patient administration system.

After a potential eye donor dies and the death is registered in the system, it generates an email which is converted into an SMS message and sent to Queensland Health which lets the tissue banks know of an incoming donation.

According to Mater's CIO, Malcolm Thatcher, the integration approach was critical given the amount of HL7 messages running through its system every day.

“The tissue donation application was an example of how we could do something clever with the way we process our messages,” he said.

The group also achieved a 94 per cent report rate in the first three months of operation following the application deployment.

Mater Health Services runs seven hospitals in Queensland and has also used Ensemble to introduce a single electronic patient record in March last year.

Thatcher said the ensemble integration is a key component of its architectural strategy because of the complex IT systems, which are a mix of private and public. It operates wards ranging from maternity through to geriatric care and deals with 500,000 patients a year.

“If we were just a private hospital, it would be easier for us to take a cookie cutter approach to clinical work flow and standardise on a clinical information platform,” he said. "Unfortunately we were not able to do that so going best of breed meant we had to have a good integration strategy to connect all these systems."

Some of the other applications developed on the platform allow Mater Health Services to integrate information easier.

“A good example is we have a clinical portal for our clinicians that takes information from various systems to present in a single view,” he said.

Due to the mix of public and private facilities, it has three different appointment systems for allied health, private and public clinics. To overcome this problem, Ensemble was used to consolidate appointment data into one application.

“This is presented as a single view to clinicians when they are looking for future appointments or past meetings with a patient,” said Thatcher.

Mater Health Services is also in the process of virtualising 3500 desktops over the next four years at a rate of 850 devices a year.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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