eHealth at the centre of NSW state health plan

The NSW government has released its full state health plan covering the next six years, focused around three directions to be implemented through four strategies, including eHealth.

The three directions are keeping people healthy (preventative health), providing world-class clinical care (acute care) and delivering integrated care.

These will be implemented through workforce measures, supporting research and innovation, designing and building infrastructure and enabling eHealth.

The eHealth strategy has been set out in the government's Blueprint for eHealth in NSW, released in December last year, which aims to use technology for clinical care, business services, infrastructure and community outreach.

It has led to the establishment of a new, dedicated agency called eHealth NSW along with a refreshed eHealth vision for the state.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner has been spruiking her plans for integrated care (PDF), which she said would create a connected health system so patients get the care they need where and when they need it.

Integrated care will be joined to plans for preventative health and acute care through the four strategies.

In preventative health, the government has set targets to reduce rates of smoking, overweight and obesity, risky levels of drinking and reducing the gap in indigenous and non-indigenous infant mortality.

It will use measures such as improved consumer access to and understanding of health information to achieve these targets.

For acute care, it will invest in tools such as a patient flow portal to help clinicians and managers better coordinate patient flows through EDs and hospitals, as well as the development and roll-out of tools such as the new activity-based management (ABM) portal, developed in association with Qliktech.

For integrated care, the plan highlights major investments in eHealth, including programs such as HealtheNet, which aims to link medical records within the NSW public health system as well as to the national PCEHR.

The Central Coast, Western NSW and Western Sydney Local Health Districts will act as integrated care ‘demonstrator sites’ to develop and test system-wide approaches to integrated care, with funding contingent on delivery of results.

It also plans to support data linkages between state and federally funded services to help patients and clinicians have the information they need when and where they need it to make the best decisions in a timely way.

This also includes building and expanding investment in eHealth solutions such as telehealth and HealtheNet to support communication and connectivity across healthcare providers and treatment settings.

In community care, it plans to promote local health pathways that standardise and simplify referral and links for GPs, hospitals and community health providers.

The integrated care strategy will be funded through a $120 million investment over four years.

In terms of enabling eHealth, the plan says that 142 hospitals – or 80 per cent of the state' bed base – now use an eMR enabling clinicians to order tests, schedule surgery and prepare discharge summaries electronically.

The majority of hospitals are also using picture archiving communication (PACS) and radiology information systems (RIS), with many clinicians able to access the enterprise imaging repository built as part of HealtheNet.

HealtheNet also links the electronic medical records used by public hospital and community services with the PCEHR.

According to the latest information from NEHTA, hospitals that can access the PCEHR and upload discharge summaries include eight hospitals in the Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD, four in Nepean Blue Mountains, nine in South-Eastern Sydney – including the majors such as Prince of Wales, Royal Hospital for Women, St George, St Vincent's and Calvary.

Five hospitals in the Western Sydney LHD, including Westmead and Blacktown, are able to access the PCEHR, as are the two children's hospitals that make up the special Sydney Children's local health network.

NSW Health says all hospitals also have access to the patient flow portal, which is used to manage an estimated 3250 patient transfers per month. The state's CBORD food services IT system is also being upgraded.

Future plans include the implementation of the Community Health and Outpatient Care (CHOC) system to integrate clinical and electronic record systems, phase two of the Cerner EMR roll-out, implementation of electronic medication management and the new MetaVision intensive care clinical information system from iMDsoft.

A rural eHealth strategy has also been developed that includes major upgrades to internet and telecommunications, and a full rural health plan is also soon to be released.

Major infrastructure over the next five years includes upgrades to Wagga Wagga Hospital, Blacktown/Mt Druitt, Lismore and Kempsey as well as the new hospital being built at Frenchs Forest on Sydney's northern beaches.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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