HealthLink launches campaign to boost messaging quality
Electronic messaging provider HealthLink has launched a campaign to encourage electronic medical record (EMR) and practice management software companies to improve the quality of electronic messaging.
HealthLink is setting up a capability register to track which vendors are working towards conformance with HL7 standards and to ensure that their systems are interoperable.
HealthLink's manager of vendor integration, Kyle Macdonald, said that to be truly useful, electronic messaging must be at least as reliable as paper-based information exchange or preferably more so.
“An increasing reliance on electronic messaging to replace paper-based processes has meant that it is becoming more urgent than ever to ensure that every electronic message is received by the intended recipient in exactly the manner and format intended,” Mr Macdonald said.
“Over the past few months a small number of incidents have come to light which can best be described as 'patient misadventure near-misses'. Specialists sending information to their referring general practices have found that lack of standards conformance among some of the EMR systems is reducing the reliability of the process. In the worst cases, messages are failing to be imported or the recipient systems are failing to notify the senders that this has happened.”
He said these examples showed the importance of ensuring consistent implementation of messaging standards, in particular the correct and reliable use of HL7 message acknowledgements.
“HL7 message acknowledgements are automated response messages that tell the sending system that its outgoing message has been received by the recipient’s system and correctly inserted into its database,” he said. “Each of these problems can be traced to one or more deficiencies in the way in which one or more EMR vendors has implemented electronic messaging capabilities within their products.”
He said a number of EMR system vendors had made significant strides in implementing message acknowledgements and message tracking capabilities within their systems but some practice systems have not made sufficient progress and a number of new systems have arrived on the market.
“In order to encourage continued progress in this important area, HealthLink is commencing a new marketing and education campaign to highlight the progress made and to draw attention to any remaining deficiencies,” he said.
“The emphasis of the campaign will be to ensure that practices are given all the help they need to understand where any potential problems and risks lie with their clinical messaging.”
HealthLink is contacting around 50 practice management software companies to ascertain the exact status of their systems, with the results to be published in Pulse+IT later this year.
The campaign follows a similar one in 2009, when HealthLink contributed to an article in Pulse+IT's November issue highlighting the poor adherence to HL7 standards within the Australian health sector.
HealthLink CEO Tom Bowden said the issue was extremely important considering that approximately 12,000 healthcare organisations in Australia and New Zealand exchange more than 100 million items of clinical information via their electronic medical record systems every year.
“If even one of those electronic messages fails to import, is deficient, incorrect or incomplete, it could mean life or death for a patient,” Mr Bowden said. “So it is absolutely essential that as a healthcare IT community we take every possible step to ensure that electronic communication is working perfectly.
“We hope that the Australian health IT community will work closely with us, just as they did in 2009, to bring each system up to the required level to guarantee quality information exchange and therefore certainty for patients and their carers.”
Posted in Australian eHealth