Digital hospitals improve health for Queenslanders: report

The report by the QAO also found that hospitals spent more to go beyond the planned scope of their digital hospitals and invested more resources to reduce disruption on patient flow when new systems were introduced.
By Hafizah Osman
10:20 PM
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Above image: Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, a tertiary healthcare centre under Metro South Health. Credit: Shiftchange

The report, tabled by the Queensland Audit Office (QAO), highlighted the benefits of the digital hospital program in Queensland, while making recommendations to improve governance of the future rollout.

Key findings from the report identified that as a result of the digital hospital program, Queenslanders face improved health service delivery and patient outcomes, as well as a reduction in unplanned readmission rates.

It found that medical staff can access clinical information faster and that patient records are more legible.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the digital hospital program is “one of the most significant health advances in decades”.

“Digital hospitals are making Queensland hospitals safer than ever before. Doctors and nurses have told me when I’ve visited hospitals that the digital system helps them do their jobs and helps patients,” Miles said.

Miles brought up the example of Metro South Health’s digital program, which he said contributed to a “significant increase” in early identification of deteriorating patients, as well as a decrease in emergency patient readmissions, less incidents linked to drug administration, monitoring, dispensing and supply and a significant drop in infections.

As part of its move to digital, the healthcare provider most recently embarked on a journey to enable people living with progressive neurological conditions like Motor Neuron Disease (MND) to use mobile digital assistants daily.

The report also identified the benefits that Princess Alexandra Hospital has faced and how it has become a template for the rest of the state following its adoption of an integrated electronic medical record (ieMR) system.

“We can see digital hospitals are reducing the average length of stay and unplanned readmissions,” Queensland Chief Clinical Information Officer Dr Keith McNeil said. “Doctors are telling us the new system means they can spend more time on patient care and less time on paperwork.

“Nurses are saying that the system means they have a huge amount of readily available information and they are not having to waste time searching for notes. This means the system is working.”

He added that the increasing focus on technological advances and continuing improvements will continue to provide new opportunities. “Our increased focus on ieMR’s clinical capability will ensure our patients can access these opportunities, now and in the future.”
 
The report also found that while implementation costs exceeded initial expectations, it was often because hospitals spent more to go beyond the planned scope of their digital hospitals, bought extra devices to increase utilisation of the systems and invested more resources to reduce disruption on patient flow when new systems were introduced.

Queensland Health Director-General Michael Walsh has reviewed the status of the system rollout and has made a number of changes relating to report recommendations.

Walsh said the system was in place in 10 hospitals across the state’s Hospital and Health Services and that the department would continue to focus on ensuring the system delivered on benefits.

He said Queensland Health has expanded the responsibility for managing the relationship with the digital hospital system provider and commenced an independent assessment to confirm that, as per the contract, the prices being paid for the system were no less favourable than those being paid by other health service providers in Australia.

“The people of Queensland expect and deserve the very best care when they are treated in the state’s hospitals,” Walsh said.

“The report confirms the system is helping us deliver that and we accept the system-oversight recommendations the QAO has made. They are not difficult to implement because they are not major adjustments.”

This article first appeared on Healthcare IT News Australia.