South Island health system closes information gaps

Hospitals across the South Island will soon be sharing relevant patient health information electronically for the entire South Island population.  

On 13 February, when Nelson Marlborough district health board (DHB) launches the clinical information portal, Health Connect South, it will join Canterbury, West Coast, South Canterbury and Southern DHBs – connecting all five South Island DHBs to the same shared electronic patient record for hospital care.

Steve Earnshaw, Chief Medical Officer for South Canterbury DHB and Chair of the South Island Clinical Informatics Leadership Team, says although this milestone has been years in the making, it’s really just the start. “With the addition of Nelson Marlborough, we have a South Island health system that is well-prepared to respond to future challenges – it’s a huge step forward. The South Island is the only region in New Zealand to have made this happen and it was only made possible by the collaboration of the five South Island DHBs through the South Island Alliance.

“Although each DHB serves its own unique community, we share similar issues. When we work as a regional team we can leverage improvements and ensure everyone has equal access to the same high quality care. If I end up in the emergency department away from home, I can expect the same level of care based on the same knowledge of my health history as I would in my home town.”

Health Connect South, an Orion Health solution, pulls information from disparate sources, presents it in a single patient view, and allows users to update or add information to the medical record. This includes test results, allergies, x-rays, medications and previous hospital admissions. The modular nature of Health Connect South allows new clinical systems to be added over time. For Bev Nicolls, General Practitioner and Clinical Director of Information Systems for Nelson Marlborough DHB, this is the most exciting aspect of the system.

“Health Connect South is the catalyst for a number of initiatives. It is helping us to streamline some previously complex, manual processes and provide richer, more meaningful patient information, which is available when and where it’s needed. Also, for the doctors, nurses and allied health teams who move between our hospitals, they will be using the same systems, as if they were still in the same hospital.”

Nelson Marlborough DHB is also preparing for the delivery later this year of HealthOne, which allows primary healthcare providers, such as GPs and community pharmacists, to share records and view hospital information such as discharge summaries and test results.

“Joining the dots between primary and secondary healthcare is hugely beneficial for doctors and their patients,” says Bev. “As a GP, I spend a lot of time chasing results and playing phone tag with other doctors. With all the information at my fingertips, I can provide faster and more effective care for my patients. Hospital staff will have access to GP records and GPs will have access to test results and hospital discharge summaries. It’s a level of integration we’ve never had before.”