A new report has backed Queensland’s digital hospital program, confirming it is improving health care and patient outcomes.
The Queensland Audit Office (QAO) today tabled a report into the program, highlighting the benefits of the system while also making recommendations to improve governance of the future rollout.
The report found:
• patients are experiencing benefits through a reduction in unplanned readmission rates,
• staff can access clinical information faster,
• patient records are more legible,
• inappropriate pathology testing is being reduced in Cairns and at the Princess Alexandra hospitals,
• targets for inpatient length of stay are being met in Townsville,
• overall the program is improving health service delivery and patient outcomes,
• stakeholders believe investing in the digital hospital rollout is an investment in quality and patient safety, and
• more benefits are expected from the program as it rolls out around the state.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the digital hospital program was one of the most significant health advances in decades.
“Digital hospitals are making Queensland hospitals safer than ever before.
“For instance, in Metro South the digital program contributed to a significant increase in early identification of deteriorating patients, as well as a decrease in emergency patient readmissions, less incidents linked to drug administration, monitoring, dispensing and supply and a significant drop in infections.
“This report further confirms that patients in our hospitals are already seeing benefits from the digital hospital program.
“Doctors and nurses have told me when I’ve visited hospitals that the digital system helps them do their jobs and helps patients.”
The report found that while costs of the implementation had exceeded initial expectations, it was often because hospitals had spent more money to go beyond the planned scope of their digital hospital, bought extra devices to increase utilisation of the system by doctors and nurses, and invested more resources to reduce disruption on patient flow when the new system was introduced.
“Like any large system there’s often room to learn and improve as you go and we will implement the report recommendations to ensure we continue to see positive results,” Mr Miles said.
Queensland Health Director-General Michael Walsh said he had reviewed the status of the system rollout at the request of the Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services and had already made a number of changes relating to report recommendations.
Mr Walsh said the system was in place in 10 hospitals across the state’s Hospital and Health Service’s and that the department would continue to focus on ensuring the system delivered every possible benefit.
“For that reason, we have transitioned responsibility for the program’s optimisation from our IT experts to the state’s Chief Clinical Information Officer, Dr Keith McNeil,” Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said Queensland Health had also expanded the responsibility for managing the relationship with the digital hospital system provider and commenced an independent assessment to confirm that, as per the contract, the prices being paid for the system were no less favourable than those being paid by other health service providers in Australia.
“The people of Queensland expect and deserve the very best care when they are treated in the state’s hospitals,” Mr Walsh said.
“The report confirms the system is helping us deliver that and we accept the system-oversight recommendations the QAO has made.
“They are not difficult to implement because they are not major adjustments.”
Chief Clinical Information Officer, Dr Keith McNeil said Queensland was starting to see benefits delivered by similar systems overseas.
“Already we can see digital hospital is reducing the average length of stay and unplanned readmissions,” Dr McNeil said.
“Doctors are telling us the new system means they can spend more time on patient care and less time on paperwork.
“Nurses are saying that the system means they have a huge amount of readily available information and they are not having to waste time searching for notes.
“This means the system is working.”
“Technological advances and continuing improvements are providing new opportunities which could not have been foreseen even two years ago, but our increased focus on ieMR’s clinical capability will ensure our patients can access these opportunities, now and in the future.”