New patient record system' the best'

01:30, Feb 12 2014
Tom Morton
ALL IN ONE: Dr Tom Morton, left, and analyst programmer Chris Flaherty with the new system.

Whiteboards, clipboards and folders full of paperwork were once the lifeblood of Nelson Hospital's emergency department, but a new electronic system designed in-house means patient records can now circulate everywhere at once.

ED clinical director Tom Morton said the "ED at a Glance" system came about when he started looking for a way to upgrade from paper records.

After researching other New Zealand hospitals' patient information systems, he felt that the current crop of digital products could be improved upon.

Dr Morton found a suitable product that had been developed overseas, but when the National Health IT Board rejected his proposal to use it, he realised that the best remaining option was to ask the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's IT team to create something. "It was either develop it ourselves or do nothing."

The resulting system is the first of its kind in Australasia.

Because it incorporates so much data from so many sources, the complicated project took IT development manager Darren Markham and analyst programmers Chris Flaherty and Bill Fennell 18 months to complete.


Mr Flaherty described the process as a true collaboration that was led by clinicians. "It was a case of asking Tom, ‘What do you want?'."

He said that because the product was never destined for sale, the IT team was free to concentrate on utility rather than marketability.

Dr Morton said visiting doctors had told him that ED at a Glance was the best system of its type they had seen.

"It's the same as what's in many emergency departments, but we were able to give it our own flavour and develop it towards our way of working."

ED at a Glance is a program that gathers together all relevant information about a patient's place within the hospital in real time. Its scrolling display is visible on a large electronic whiteboard in the ED, and accessible from computers around the hospital.

The system lists patient names, their symptoms, how long they have been in the ED, which cubicle they are in, which tests have been ordered, any allergies and more at the click of a button. It sends text notifications to bed coordinating staff when patients are sent to different wards, and laboratory technicians can input data from their various locations as soon as it is available.

It links in with the clinical records system to give instant access to patient notes and, uniquely in New Zealand and Australia, can record whether alcohol or intoxication is a factor when patients turn up with injuries.

Dr Morton said searching for patient information would no longer suck away his time. The new system was "seamless, immediate, and I don't have to have the papers in front of me".

He was proud of what had been accomplished. "We've done something that is unique, a lot of bloody hard work, but we think we've got a product that is better than any of them."

ED at a Glance is being implemented at Blenheim's Wairau Hospital.