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If you have ever heard of someone getting a wrong appointment, or of one health professional chasing another for a patient’s health record, then you will know that there is room for improvement in ‘health IT’.
The government is determined to make progress nationally – the latest budget has a lot of funding set aside for the purpose. In our neck of the woods, the new Dunedin hospital is an additional catalyst.
There is much to do. The new Dunedin hospital will itself be bristling with connections so that a nurse can write into a patient’s record on their tablet, or perhaps by speaking out loud. No more need to write notes and enter them into a computer later. The patient themselves will be able to get broadband from their bed, so they can email or watch something on their own screen.
The new outpatients will feel a little less like a hospital and a little more like an airport – it will be easy to know if the ophthalmologist is running a bit late. All the details from when you were last seen will be available, no matter where you were last seen.
But the changes will not be limited to Dunedin; they will occur throughout the southern district, and many will flow out into the rest of the South Island. We will be able to keep better health records of folk in rest homes. We will be able to make sure that someone’s mental health history doesn’t have to be repeated and repeated. We can start various new forms of telemedicine.
As we go, we have two important things to consider. One is that IT can exclude people or alienate them. Often, they are older people, or just people who can’t stand technology. This is the ‘digital divide’ and it is very real.
The second is that our systems must be adequately secure from cyber-attack. This is a present and future threat of consequence as the Waikato DHB and the entire Irish health system have recently discovered.
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