Health | Ageing

Integration and e-Health systems will address health system challenges

In order to meet the unprecedented demands NSW’s health system is facing, the government will have to work smarter, not harder, through investment in technology and innovation, NSW Minister for Health the Hon. Jillian Skinner has told a CEDA audience.

Speaking at the NSW Health Update series in Sydney, Ms Skinner said, “The challenges that NSW, and health systems all over the world are now facing, are not simple tasks.

“The challenge is clear when considering the ageing population, the rising incidence of chronic disease and greater expectation from consumers, all within a finite health budget. We need to work smarter.”

Ms Skinner said that one of the ways the government is working smarter is through investing in innovation and technology and integrated care.

“Back in the year 2010, as the Shadow Health Minister, I addressed a gathering of ICT specialists about my conviction that information communications technologies (ICT) would play a dramatic role in improving the health of NSW and I said I wanted not just to be the Health Minister, but the e-Health Minister,” Ms Skinner said.

Ms Skinner said integration is a key area in ongoing health reform, saying seamless health care should be delivered from the primary health care setting, to the tertiary and back. 

“We are trying to make primary health care the beginning of the journey, with patient identification and selection, information sharing, and through an e-Health strategy and investment. This relies very heavily on technology and electronic systems of patient records,” she said.

“Modernising the heath system relies a very large extent on providing our health professionals with the tools they need to provide best possible care.

“To this end, we are ensuring that new and developed hospitals across NSW are technology-ready to meet future challenges and demands. While continuing to provide the highest quality medical and health services to communities across the state. 

“Recently I launched the e-Health strategy for NSW 2016-2026, which is a 10-year program of innovation, investment and implementation. Which has key short-, medium- and long-term goals.”

She said the government is building the hardware to reach across regions where it’s currently lacking; the “NBN of health”, as it is being dubbed.

This hardware currently connects 150 hospital and health centres across NSW, including those that are in rural and remote locations, which enables clinicians access to systems that can be used across the state and in ambulatory care, she said.

The key investment she cited include the Paper Light Program, which is being used in the Blacktown Hospital redevelopment that is currently in Stage 2 of its redevelopment.

“Since 2014 we started this – all new patient records are now fully electronic, while existing and past patient records are in the process of being digitised. These hospitals are being built without storage for medical records.”

Ms Skinner said this will mean chronic patients who are regular visitors that would ordinarily have a record consisting of a large stack of paperwork, will now have a simple file that can be read on an iPad, which will be revolutionary in diagnosing and providing the best care for patients.

Ms Skinner closed in saying she believes there is a need to continue working toward a health system that is focused on patients and patient outcomes. This would be achieved through fostering partnerships, through efforts to create a more integrated system, through investing in technology and through planning future-focused infrastructure, she said.