Health Connect South, the South Island’s shared electronic clinical record, has hit a significant usage milestone in July 2021 with two million patient records accessed by clinicians across the region in a single month. 

Health Connect South (HCS) is the in-hospital electronic clinical record that has been live across all five DHBs in New Zealand’s South Island since 2018. It provides clinical teams treating patients in the region with full visibility of their medical record at whatever hospital they visit on the South Island. 

The system has been developed as part of a long-term strategic partnership between the South Island Alliance and Orion Health, enabling the two organisations to work closely together to address specific challenges and ultimately ensure patients receive safer, better quality care, when they need it. 

Since the inception of HCS there have been significant enhancements made to the revolutionary system. Key highlights include Shared Care Plans that document a patient’s needs and wishes; dashboards to provide GPs with a view of recently discharged patients; digital triage functionality using Clinical Referrals to over 450 healthcare services across the South Island; and integration with St John’s Ambulance Care Summaries providing DHB clinicians with crucial information about a patient’s emergency event. 

Dunedin Emergency Department’s Clinical Director, Dr Richard Stephenson, describes HCS as an extremely useful tool for clinical staff in the Emergency Department. 

“[HCS] provides us with instant access to a wide variety of a patient’s clinical records, investigation and test results no matter where they were generated in the South Island and interfaces well with other applications. The integrated cross-platform and inter-DHB accessibility of clinical records provided by HCS is clearly the way of the future in clinical IT.”

Key to the solution is Orion Health’s Clinical Portal, which gives clinicians single sign-on access to a range of hospital applications including a personalised patient summary, as well as other health IT systems. 

Health Connect South also provides a view of HealthOne, an electronic health record, initially developed in collaboration with Orion Health, that provides clinicians with a view of primary care encounters, dispensed medications and encounter notes. Having access to this unified view of patient records means care teams can spend more time with their patients and less time contacting other clinicians to collect information about previous care.

The benefits of this are recognised by Sam Grummitt, a Specialist Anaesthetist and QA Lead in Canterbury DHB’s Department of Anaesthesia. 

“As a speciality that is constantly meeting patients for short, episodic care events, HCS provides anaesthetists with one point of digital contact for a patient by integrating all the separate clinical applications that contain that person’s information into a single portal to assess, review and communicate. 

The integration with primary care providers is fantastic to get an overview of a patient who may never have been admitted to hospital before, and greatly facilitates pre-operative assessment.”

The 2021 winter has seen higher than normal volumes of patients visiting DHBs across the region. This has meant the need for clinical teams to have access to complete and up-to-date information about patients to make accurate and timely decisions is more important than ever. Hitting the two million patient access mark in a single month demonstrates the system is providing real value to its end-users and is supporting the wider health system in rising to significant challenges. 

Jacqui Williams, Client Success Director at Orion Health, says “Our team is largely based in Christchurch so we are proud to play a part in improving healthcare in the South Island as it directly affects all of us. 

“We look forward to continuing to work closely together with the South Island Alliance to deliver new integration and functionality within Health Connect South that responds to the needs of our ever evolving health system.”

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