Over the past year, iCareHealth and the National eHealth Transition Authority’s (NEHTA) have been supporting three leading aged care organisations – Donwood Community Aged Care, Lynden Aged Care and mecwacare – through the process of implementing the software that would allow their facilities to link and use the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) system.
We have asked each of them to share their learnings and insights from the journey, which we’ve compiled to help you to better make the case for eHealth in your own organisation. In the second part of the interview series, Lynden Aged Care and mecwacare answer the question, in what ways will the eHealth system benefit your organisation?
Lynden Aged Care: Ann Turnball, CEO
Having instant, electronic access to the most current and accurate information about residents will be the main benefit of eHealth for the aged care industry.
One of the biggest challenges we have at the moment is around the flow of information. There are so many components to aged care – whether a resident is going off to see a doctor for routine tests, or to visit a specialist, or requires an emergency transfer to hospital. With paper-based documentation, we rarely receive a detailed account of what has happened during the resident’s time away from the facility.
For example, discharge summaries. Hospital discharge summaries are a critical part of aged care, yet when we receive the discharge summary back from the hospital, it is often 5.00pm on a Friday afternoon. We will sometimes get a discharge summary that is handwritten or difficult to read, and sometimes we don’t even get that. If we do receive a discharge summary, the new medications have often been written by a nurse so we then have to get the locum in to transfer the medications onto a medication chart.
It is a similar situation when a resident returns from visiting the specialist. The resident may say to us that their medication has been changed so we then have to spend time getting to the bottom of it. We would have to ring the doctor to tell them that they will need to find out what the new medication regime is, or we are required to contact the specialist and fax that information back to the doctor in order to get them to write it on a medication form.
So I believe that in time, eHealth will close that gap and improve the sharing of this knowledge and documentation. It will allow us to access and download hospital discharge summaries, as well as the information recorded by doctors and specialists, via the shared health summary in the electronic health record. Having the ability to retrieve the most complete and up-to-date record is essential.
In the future, I hope to also see benefits associated with the pharmacy side as well. Currently, the pharmacy still requires a prescription so this process is particularly time-consuming. With an eHealth system, doctors could potentially prescribe straight to the pharmacy, which would end the paper trail and also make our lives much easier.
mecwacare: Nicholas Hill, Quality Advisor – Residential Services, Jill Cairney, iCareHealth Project Officer and Judith Redmile, General Manager – Residential Services
For mecwacare, the key benefits of the national eHealth system stem from the improvements in continuity of care.
It is commonly the case that new residents will have been living at home but suddenly require our residential services after a period in hospital. On occasion, new residents also come to us with no history and no doctor and it can be difficult to get their medical information when they first enter the facility.
An eHealth system will remove the need to source paper-based health information and provide our nurses and care staff with up-to-date information for new admissions. From the moment a new resident with a PCEHR enters a mecwacare facility, we will have online access to a history of clinical documents such as a shared health summary, discharge summary and event summary documents.
With more complete information about a person’s history and condition at the time of admission, our care services and outcomes can be improved.
Electronic health records will also help in reducing the time our care and nursing staff spend sharing this information across the wider health sector.
For example, in the event of an emergency where a resident would need to be transferred to hospital, our staff would need to create a hospital transfer report, compile the resident’s information including a medical summary and medication profile, then print out these documents – all prior to the ambulance arriving to transfer the resident. Due to the time constraints, there is sometimes only enough time to include a basic level of information.
During the resident’s stay in hospital, we would typically receive multiple calls from the hospital, requesting more information about the resident. Once the resident is discharged from hospital, there are similar issues. We don’t always receive the discharge summary back from the hospital, particularly for those people who have required only a short visit. We find that our staff are required to spend considerable amounts of time contacting various people at the hospital, trying to find out important information regarding the resident’s stay in hospital. Our staff can also be informed that – due to the hospital’s privacy policies – information about a resident cannot be disclosed over the phone. Yet, that information is very important to us.
The national eHealth system will enhance this flow of information by enabling health and aged care providers to contribute health information directly to a person’s PCEHR. Care providers will then all have real-time access to the same health information, reducing the need to repeat that information unnecessarily. By having a resident’s information stored in a secure, central location, it will also eliminate the risks involved with misinterpretation and other human errors.
With the ability to access and share the most accurate information across the broader health sector, we will save our care and nursing staff time and help them to improve care delivery for our residents.
Are you an aged care provider? In what ways do you believe Australia’s eHealth system will benefit the aged care sector? Please share your comments below.
(Image credit: Jscreationz)