Taranaki is leading a medication safety revolution which is being watched with interest by the rest of the medical world.
At Taranaki Base Hospital, a trial aimed at saving lives and reducing drug prescribing errors through the development of leading-edge electronic medication and prescribing is well under way.
Once complete, and the hospital system is also electronically connected with community doctors and pharmacies, all patients will have a yellow card and an electronic medication history with all the medication they are on.
Each time a patient goes to a health practitioner, whether it be a dietician or a consultant, their medication history will be upgraded.
Three other district health boards throughout the country are also involved in separate hospital pilots, called Go for Gold, but Taranaki has taken on the lot.
"We are doing the electronic prescribing, electronic pharmacy dispensing, the Pyxsis machine and the electronic medication reconciliation system," Taranaki DHB director of medication management Elizabeth Plant said.
Ms Plant and Dr Campbell White were invited to speak about the New Zealand project at the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare in Paris in April.
"They wanted to hear from us because what we are doing here is so internationally significantly.
"What's earth-shattering is that Taranaki is leading the world."
The Go for Gold programme is jointly sponsored by the Health Quality and Safety Commission and the National Health Board's IT Board, of which both Ms Plant and Taranaki DHB chief executive Tony Foulkes are members.
The programme aims to achieve gold level medication management by the end of 2014 when all public hospitals are expected to have the electronic medicines management programme operational.
Mr Foulkes said the trial was part of a national programme to improve patient safety.
"I think it is fantastic that Taranaki clinicians working with their colleagues from other DHBs can be part of shaping improvements for the country.
"If new technology can help clinicians working together to help patients, then we want to be up there leading the changes.
Ms Plant said the Otago DHB had achieved the first e-prescribing pilot and Taranaki was pulling the pieces together and doing the fully integrated hospital project.
"The systems are traditionally quite old and they are huge and so it's making sense out of them and upgrading the systems and bringing them into the modern systems and getting them to talk to each other."
The programme will have warnings on correct doses, include a patient's allergies and 400 treatment guidelines in the increasingly complex world of drugs.
"I hope that we will be completely implemented by the time we move into the new hospital, and then the challenge will be to connect with GPs and community pharmacies into a total system."
Ward One was already trialling the new systems and would go live next month.
"It's wonderful for them, it will flag when they miss a dose or if a doctor tries to prescribe a drug a patient is allergic to he will be alerted. All the safety alerts are built in."
Ms Plant has been working towards electronic systems for 13 years.
Medical registrar Chris Hopkins, working in Ward One, was impatient to see it go live.
"It will be good when it's up and running. I'm one of those who are more excited about it than apprehensive. It's a big change."
Health Minister Tony Ryall said he fully supported the e-medicines Go for Gold programme at Taranaki DHB. "Better medication management means fewer mistakes, better care for patients and safer hospitals."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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