One phone call for patients

One telephone call is all it will take for Dunedin Hospital patients to check on things such as appointment times when a new patient administration computer system goes live later this year.

Under the existing system, patient information, such as appointments and referrals, is held in each department and patients have to ring each department if they have a query.

Otago District Health Board regional chief information officer Grant Taylor said under the new system, patients should have to talk to only one staff member.

Implementing the new computer system was the biggest project the board was undertaking this year, Mr Taylor said.

‘‘It is massive. It's a big, big project which is going to affect almost everybody in the hospital.''

The new iPM system is expected to go live in November, but transferring information from the existing system and training staff on the new system would be a huge logistical exercise, he said.

‘‘Training alone is huge. When you have 1500 to 1800 staff going through three hours of training, logistically it's going to take a long time.''

Under the new system, authorised staff would be able to see all of each patient's referrals for assessments and treatment, appointments, inpatient activities and whether they are on waiting lists.

Staff will also be able to link appointments in different departments, so when a patient cancels an appointment, other linked appointments will be notified.

The system would contain information about the services a patient uses, but not the patient's actual file with test results and other medical information. However, it would link the systems which did contain that information.

‘‘It will be a lot more seamless,'' Mr Taylor said.

The existing OraCare system caused problems a year ago, when it crashed and some staff had to go back to manual recording of patient information.

The technology was also so dated the hospital would soon be unable to get any maintenance or upgrades done by either the software or hardware supplier, Mr Taylor said.

The new iPM system has already been installed by the Southland District Health Board and the eventual plan was to use it across both regions, which would lead to cost savings for both boards, Mr Taylor said.

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