EHRs in the hands of clinicians at Portland District Health

Friday, 25 August, 2017

EHRs in the hands of clinicians at Portland District Health

Portland District Health, Victoria, is leading the pack in clinical informatics technology, with close to 95% conversion to electronic health records (EHRs). CEO Christine Giles* says “paper is no longer an option” and explains why EHRs should stay in the hands of clinicians, not administrators.

Good communication is vitally important to the health and wellbeing of patients who present to remote, rural and regional health services. Arguably, the more rural or remote, the more important this is. Having instant access to a patient’s clinical health records means the patient receives the definite care they need, more quickly.

The public rural health sector in Australia is the front door to the wider system. Many rural patients will move from the front door through to the tertiary sector and back. Without seamless clinical communication, the risks related to multiple patient handoffs rises dramatically.

The current health indicators in Australia clearly show a widening gap between the burden of disease in rural areas compared to metropolitan centres, yet the rural sector is often at the end of the technology rollout cycle.

At Portland District Health, we have made a conscious decision to move from being late adopters of clinical informatics technology to being a leader. Currently we have across our integrated health services around a 95% implementation of an EHR system which includes acute health, medication management and the primary, community sector.

Portland is part of a larger picture that sees the whole of the south-west corner of Victoria in the process of implementing an integrated EHR system. If a patient presents at Portland and needs to transfer to Warrnambool, the clinical team can see the full clinical record of the patient prior to transfer and vice versa, markedly decreasing the likelihood of miscommunication.

As the CEO at Portland District Health, it has been vital to actively lead and manage our electronic health journey. Moving back to paper is no longer an option. We currently have clinical staff at Portland who have never seen a paper drug chart and are using the electronic medication management platform, with all the built-in safety features, very effectively.

For management, it is extremely important to step out of the arena of owning the clinical EHR. To implement it effectively, it must be owned by the clinicians.

In the past, health has focused on building systems to meet management’s need for data. The development of the EHR puts the right information in the right place at the right time for the clinical team. Once the clinicians have the system designed for their needs, management can then look at how it can extract data to inform the quality and safety of the system.

The EHR is as vital to the clinical now as the stethoscope was and is. Management does not get involved in the look and feel of the stethoscope and should not influence how the EHR provides clinical decision support for clinicians.

*Christine Giles is the CEO of Portland District Health in South West Victoria, where she admits she is also known as “Gadget Girl”. She says Portland District Health is a digital organisation leading the way in providing the right information in the right place at the right time to ensure safe and high-quality patient care. Christine is recognised as a strong advocate and early adopter of technologies that change the way patients work collaboratively with clinicians to improve their health and wellbeing and enjoy the best quality of life they can. She is one of the opening speakers at the Nursing Informatics Australia (NIA) Conference on Sunday, 6 August in Brisbane, at the start of the annual Health Informatics Society Australia conference which runs till 9 August.

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