'Better IT means better patient safety'
If all hospital specialists used the same electronic health records system it would lead to huge savings for the health services, according to a consultant rheumatologist.
Electronic medical record systems allow doctors to directly access vital health information on patients such as current medications and recent test results regardless of the site where a patient is receiving care.
Dr John Carey says having a uniform approach to electronic health information (EHI) would mean, for example that previous health records would be more easily available when the patient comes to see a specialist
There would, for example, be less unnecessary repeating of tests due to the non-availability of previous records at the point of care, he points out.
Dr John Carey said having all doctors working from the same IT system would reduce the risk of human error, put less pressure on medical resources and would ultimately provide a more efficient, effective and satisfactory health service for the patient.
Addressing the spring meeting of the Irish Society for Rheumatology, Dr Carey said Irish rheumatologists need to harness the advantages of electronic health information (EHI) to promote wellness and provide more efficient and effective care while reducing costs.
"As Ireland has one of the lowest ratios of rheumatologists per capita in the EU, better use of electronic information could make a significant impact on the number of patients seen and treated and the quality of care they receive."
Dr Carey said coordination of EHI could lead to up to three times as many patient visits annually.
"An American study showed that one in seven hospitalisations occurs because previous health records were not available and one in five lab tests were repeated because of previous test results were not available at the point of care."
Dr Carey said a uniform electronic information system would also mean better patient safety, by providing immediate alerts to doctors on drug allergies or critical lab test results.
He said the cost per capita of maintaining an EHI system is estimated at being only slightly more than the cost of one unnecessarily repeated lab test.
Dr Carey said while there had been advances in the use of EHI in some areas many new electronic systems are being set up independently and so may not ultimately link up.
"The current band-aid approach should be discarded and we should be looking to integrate the health system into a single seamless system today to improve our healthcare tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Dublin's Mater Private Hospital hs announced it has become the first private hospital in the country to join the online National Healthlink Project; a web-based messaging service which allows the secure transmission of patient information such as results and referrals over the internet.
Healthlink.ie includes over 1800 GPs around Ireland and through the direct electronic transfrer of information, helps reduce both the length of time it takes to receive patients’ test results and the length of time spent contacting hospital departments.
GPs can now use Healthlink to send referrals electronically to the Mater Private's specialist breast centre.
[Posted: Mon 08/03/2010]