NSW eHealth plan finalised with release of rural strategy

Improving rural eHealth has been named as one of three strategies to implement the NSW government's new rural health plan, with an experienced IT manager appointed as director of eHealth NSW's rural eHealth program.

The five-year rural health plan is aligned with the statewide health plan released earlier this year as well as the Blueprint for eHealth in NSW released late last year.

The blueprint led to the establishment of a dedicated eHealth NSW division within NSW Health in June this year and a recommendation to appoint a rural eHealth director within it to oversee the implementation of the rural and remote NSW eHealth part of the strategy.

The new director of the rural eHealth program is Kerri Ryan, who previously spent almost nine years with NSW Health as manager of clinical applications support. This role saw Ms Ryan responsible for service delivery of NSW Health's statewide clinical systems, including the patient administration system, the electronic medical record, community health information systems and the HealtheNet PCEHR system.

The NSW rural health plan includes three directions – healthy rural communities, access to high quality care for rural populations and integrated rural health services – implemented through three strategies – workforce enhancement, boosting health infrastructure and research and improving rural eHealth.

In the plan, the NSW government says it is investing $48 million from currently funded programs to improve eHealth in rural health services, as laid out in the blueprint.

The rural eHealth program has been set up to coordinate the implementation of eHealth solutions into the six participating rural local health districts (LHDs): Northern NSW, Mid North Coast, Western NSW, Far West, Southern NSW and Murrumbidgee.

The LHDs have agreed to pool resources and solutions as well as funding.

The main projects include:

  • Implementing the Health Wide Area Network (HWAN) to connect all rural LHD sites into the core statewide network
  • Consolidating the existing 25 NSW Health internet gateways into three and increasing overall capacity from 1.2Gbps to 30Gbps
  • Provide core infrastructure to allow existing telehealth systems to connect across NSW, including booking, scheduling and conferencing systems, integrating desktop and mobile conferencing into telehealth services and enabling clinical staff to access telehealth services
  • Continuing the implementation of the HealtheNet program to deliver a patient’s clinical information in a consolidated view, including information contained in the PCEHR. This also includes raising awareness of the PCEHR and using assisted registration tools in collaboration with primary health organisations
  • Implement phase 2 of the Cerner EMR program to upgrade the functionality and reach of the system and expand voice recognition capacity
  • Deliver a new clinical information system called Community Health and Outpatient Care (CHOC) to support community and outpatient care for Aboriginal health, aged and chronic care, allied health, child and family health, community home nursing, drugs and alcohol, mental health and sexual health.

NSW is also developing a Hospital Pharmacy Product List to deliver a single list of pharmaceutical products with standardised descriptions and setting the foundations for the 10-year, $170 million electronic medication management program.

The NSW government is also developing a monitoring and evaluation framework to track progress in achieving the plan's goals, which will be linked with the monitoring and evaluation of the state health plan.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee for Rural Health established last year and co-chaired by Lismore-based trauma surgeon Austin Curtin and parliamentary secretary for regional health Melinda Pavey will meet twice a year to provide advice on the implementation of the plan.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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