Division eHealth Initiatives

Established in November 1994, the Top End Division of General Practice (TEDGP) covers 509,900 square kilometres. This vast area includes urban and rural areas of Darwin and Katherine as well as remote areas within the Northern Territory including Wadeye, Timber Creek, Melville Island, Groote Eylandt, Borroloola, East Arnhem Land, Jabiru, Oenpelli and Nhulunbuy.

TEDGP identified the need to develop the capabilities of eHealth initiatives to support and strengthen general practice, saving time and money as well as improving the quality and safety of care provided to patients. Two of these initiatives, the Secure Electronic Messaging Service (SEMS) and the Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (ETP) projects have been trialled successfully and are currently being progressively implemented throughout the Northern Territory.

Secure Electronic Messaging Service (SEMS)

SEMS provides an easy, fast and secure way of communicating with health providers and hospitals on the SEMS network using an Argus based secure messaging solution. The aim of SEMS is to have all health providers in the Northern Territory communicating in a secure encrypted electronic environment. Integration with clinical software packages enables referrals, pathology and radiology results, discharge summaries and notifications to be directly imported into the health provider’s patient notes of their clinical software package. The messaging service also provides the transport mechanism for data being fed into the NT Shared Electronic Health Record.

Since commencing in 2005 there has been significant expansion of the SEMS network to Central Australian sites, in conjunction with the Central Australia Division of Primary Health Care. In addition, the health service providers for the indigenous communities across the borders in SA and WA have also been invited and soon will be participating in SEMS.

Achievements to date include completion of development work and testing to integrate Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisations that use Communicare and the inclusion of all NT Public Hospitals. SEMS users in the NT are now able to receive electronic referrals, notifications and discharge summaries from NT public hospitals. GP’s, specialists and allied health providers are also able to send electronic referrals directly to the appropriate hospital department and receive electronic notifications of appointments made and whether patients attend or not. The SEMS Service continues to grow in both numbers of participants and types of messages being sent.

Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (ETP)

The ETP project integrates models of care through linking GP’s clinical information systems to pharmacy dispensing systems. ETP is unique to the Northern Territory and last year was the first of its kind anywhere in Australia to implement the digital signing and dispensing of electronically created prescriptions.

A Darwin Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF) was selected for the first ETP trial to improve enhanced primary care patient outcomes, particularly for the chronically ill and the aged on multiple medications and to improve the quality and safety of care for all RACF patients. The first digitally signed and encrypted prescriptions and medication charts were sent directly from GP’s laptops using clinical information software via an internet connection to the RACF and the Pharmacy to dispense medications in December 2006 and have been running successfully since.

The implementation of Phase 2 will commence shortly and introduce ETP into the broader community-prescribing sector, providing patients with freedom of choice when it comes to selecting the pharmacy they wish to use. Software vendors Genie, Minfos and ArgusConnect have developed a software solution to accommodate ETP processing. The ETP solution will be fully integrated into Genie’s practice management software & Minfos’ pharmacy dispensing software. A central prescription server will be developed for storing digitally signed and encrypted prescriptions until the patient presents at their choice of pharmacy to have the prescription filled. It is hoped future development will enable ETP to eventually include all pharmacies and GPs within the Northern Territory, and provide a successful model for a national implementation.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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