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Better patient care through digital

Queensland’s hospitals of the future

Digital technology and innovation are revolutionising healthcare across Queensland Health with remarkable benefits being delivered for patients at 11 digital hospital sites so far.

Doctors, nurses and healthcare teams have faster and easier access to patient information through the advanced integrated electronic Medical Record (ieMR).

This means clinicians can spend more time with their patients and patients don’t have to keep repeating their medical histories with every clinician.

By 2020 there will be 27 Queensland hospitals with the advanced ieMR that will fundamentally improve the care patients receive.

It will require several years to realise the full benefits of the ieMR. However, some of the increasing list of benefits include:

  • reduced average length of stay
  • reduced unplanned readmissions
  • reduced hospital standardised mortality rate
  • reduced serious falls
  • reduced serious pressure injuries
  • reduced preventable blood clots
  • earlier response to clinical deterioration
  • additional improvements to safety and quality (e.g. fewer adverse drug events).

'These are just some of the outstanding benefits we have seen from the ieMR', says Dr Richard Ashby, Queensland Health’s Chief Information Officer, and Chief Executive of eHealth Queensland. 'Without doubt, "digital" is one of the most important revolutions in healthcare right around the world and Queensland is leading the way.'

Our digital hospitals and other digital healthcare capabilities not only relieve public hospital infrastructure pressures, they also provide highly connected and interactive models of care that support personalised, precise and well-informed treatment of patients across care settings and care teams. This is translating into more cost-effective care.

Earlier this year Beaudesert Hospital became the first Australian rural digital hospital, and in June 2018 with the go-live at the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Hospital, Metro South Hospital and Health Service became the first fully digital health service in Australia.

“As more digital transformation occurs across the state we will see improvements in connected care across service providers and overcome issues of distance and isolation.”

Dr Richard Ashby, Queensland Health’s Chief Information Officer, and Chief Executive of eHealth Queensland.

The advanced ieMR system has been rolled out at the Princess Alexandra, Mackay, Lady Cilento, Logan, Beaudesert, Redland, and Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee hospitals, and Wynnum Manly Community Health Centre Gundu Pa. In addition, Cairns and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospitals have varying levels of ieMR capability.

By June 2019 Ipswich, Sunshine Coast University, Townsville, Toowoomba, Nambour, Gold Coast University and Robina hospitals will become ieMR ‘Advanced’ sites. And by 2020 eighty per cent of patients receiving public healthcare in Queensland will be treated in a digital hospital once the rollout to the 27 hospitals has been completed.

'The investment and effort to introduce an advanced digital hospital solution is significant,' says Dr Ashby. 'However, to delay would ultimately see those hospitals lag far behind the fast-moving digital revolution. We very much look forward to other large health services around Australia going fully digital so we can work with them to share the downstream benefits, combine the clinical intellect and cement Australia’s position as an international healthcare leader. The future of healthcare is digital, and it is exciting to be involved in delivering these improvements for patients.'

Whenever someone is admitted to a hospital in Queensland their personal details and medical information are recorded and kept by the hospital.

This patient’s medical record is an important record of the medical care they receive while in the hospital. Historically, hospitals have recorded and kept patient medical information in a paper chart.

These charts use a lot of paper, have to be stored in a big warehouse, and sometimes it can be difficult for a doctor or a nurse to find a patient's chart in a hurry.

And because the information in the charts is handwritten, it might not always be easy to read. In a digital hospital patient medical information is typed straight into a computer and stored electronically in a secure computer system.

Each patient has a computer file called an electronic medical record or EMR.

A patient's electronic medical record includes their medical history, details of their medical treatment, results of a patient's medical test for things like blood tests, x-rays and scans, details of medications which are prescribed for and administered to our patients and details of any allergies or special information such as being at risk of falling which our medical staff need to know about when caring for that patient.

The digital hospital computer system also helps our medical team to see if our patients are eligible to take part in a research study or a clinical trial.

If a patient is already part of a research study, then this information is included in their electronic medical record. Doctors and nurses can use any computer in the hospital to log on and look up a patient's EMR whenever they need to check on that patient.

A digital hospital looks like a normal hospital except there are lots of special computers and equipment and no paper charts.

Our doctors and nurses use these devices to collect medical information about our patients.

The information is automatically uploaded to a patient's electronic medical record and if the information from the devices indicates that a patient's condition might be getting worse, our computer system will alert our doctors and nurses so they can immediately check on that patient.

Even our patient wristbands have a special barcode. Our doctors and nurses will scan a patient's wristband to confirm their identity when they're caring for a patient.

The barcodes are also used to identify a patient's blood test samples and when a patient is receiving medications.

Although the computers and the equipment might look complicated our staff members in a digital hospital receive special training.

Most importantly we know that the digital hospital system helps us care for our patients safely.

Having instant access to up-to-date medical information helps our doctors and nurses to make decisions about caring for their patients.

The special bar code for patients and medications is proven to reduce the number of errors made when patients receive medication in a hospital and the longer our hospitals use the digital hospital system, the more information we can collect and analyse leading to a better understanding of how best to care for our patients.