Expert committee for HISA aged care special interest group

The Health Informatics Society of Australia's (HISA) aged care special interest group elected a new committee at the Health Informatics Conference (HIC) in Adelaide last week.

Andrew Georgiou, an associate professor at the Centre for Health Systems & Safety Research at the University of NSW and last year's SIG committee chairman, was re-elected to the committee.

Dr Georgiou said the new committee had a good mix of industry experts, academics, aged care providers and technologists.

The other members are:

  • Jennifer Dunn, GP/aged care liaison and provider engagement coordinator at St Vincent's & Mater Health Sydney eHealth site
  • Ralph La Tella, ICT and information services officer with the Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA)
  • Damien Malone, facility manager and director of nursing at Victorian aged care provider SomerCare
  • Sean O'Donnell, ICT manager for Calvary Aged Care & Retirement Services
  • Llyr Otto, clinical risk manager at NSW aged and community care provider The Whiddon Group
  • Larissa Popowski, eHealth program officer at the South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local
  • Jeffrey Soar, chair in human-centred technology from the University of Southern Queensland
  • Ping Yu, director of the Health Information Technology Research Laboratory at the University of Wollongong.

Aged care informatics was held as part of the full HIC conference this year. One of the highlights of the aged care stream was Martin Laverty, CEO of Australia's largest non-government network of residential and community aged care services, Catholic Health Australia.

Mr Laverty, who also gave a keynote address at the conference, said aged care services of the future will need to be different to those offered today.

“Demand for services will grow, availability of staff will be scarce, and consumer expectations will differ from those of consumers of today,” he said.

He quoted a Productivity Commission forecast that government spending on aged care will increase from 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2006-07 to 1.9 per cent by 2046-47, due largely to increasing expenditure on residential aged care.

Technology has a large role to play in meeting the challenges of providing quality aged care in the years ahead, he said.

Dr Georgiou agreed, saying aged care was an area where technology could make a big difference.

“Aged care has been slow to take up technology but it is starting to move along now,” Dr Georgiou said. “However, it is a different arena from primary care and particularly acute care, which is based on episodes of care. The challenge for IT is to devise systems that are suitable for aged care needs.”

Dr Georgiou was also named as the winner of the Branko Cesnik award for best scientific paper at the HIC 2013 for a study he led on the effect of an electronic medical record on the quality of laboratory test orders.

This research is part of an ongoing research project carried out by the Centre for Health Systems & Safety Research (CHSSR), which is part of the University of NSW's Australian Institute of Health Innovation.

The research began with an ARC Linkage grant some years ago, when the CHSSR began work with NSW Health to evaluate the introduction of large IT systems. The research has since been funded by an ARC Linkage grant with the then-South West Sydney Area Health Service and more recently by the federal Department of Health and Ageing's Quality Use of Pathology Program, which Dr Georgiou said was keen to get evidence about how IT systems are working for pathology services.

The recent paper looked at the errors that were caused by the introduction of electronic test ordering.

“The pathology service that we were looking at had an error log, which is quite unique,” Dr Georgiou said. “We analysed it and as it turned out, for the traditional errors that occur in path labs – a mismatched specimen or a mislabelled specimen, things that can have an effect on patient safety – the EMR was better when compared to a paper system.”

Errors did occur, however, mainly due to the fact the laboratory studied had a hybrid system of both paper and electronic test orders. Errors on the paper orders were logged as electronic order entry problems, which is why there was a noticeable rise in errors after the introduction of the EMR.

“Our conclusion was that the way the system gets put in is important, the way it integrates with other systems is important, and evaluating and maintaining an evidence base about what's happening is crucial, because these things can go on and on and you wonder why you are getting more errors.”

Much of the CHSSR's best-known work involves this sort of evaluation, which can be used by both health systems and by software vendors to improve the systems they are using and developing. The centre's director, Johanna Westbrook, is well known for her work on electronic medication management systems.

“We are also doing research on work innovation, because one of the big issues is that when an IT system comes in, it transforms things,” Dr Georgiou said.

“But if things are going wrong, the IT will just make things go wrong faster. IT can't just be put in there and it will work fine; it really has to be understood in the context of clinical care.”

Posted in Aged Care

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