New IT system in works for hospital

As steel skeletal foundations continue to rise at the site of the new Dunedin hospital, a digital nervous system is being developed that will help future-proof healthcare delivery.

IT specialist Inde Technology is helping design an information technology system for the new hospital that aims to eliminate paper records and provide a better patient experience.

Chief technology officer Rik Roberts said the company started in Christchurch about eight years ago and it now has offices in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

It has about 80 staff and as an employee-owned and operated company, it prioritises a technology-first approach.

"So we created this organisation that puts engineers at the heart of the company."

One of the challenges for designing a new digital network for the hospital was ensuring fast and secure access to patient health records.

Mr Roberts said in healthcare there were often several applications providing information such as blood tests, radiology scans and patient histories.

A key challenge was ensuring quick and reliable access to these records, regardless of location.

Healthcare workers would need to access several different niche, specialised applications in a simple and secure way, from home, in an emergency department or at the bedside.

One aim was to eliminate paper records but providing a way to have patient details accessible at all times as health professionals moved around the hospital.

Instead of notes on a whiteboard or a clipboard at the end of a patient bed, information could be available on tablets or digital screens.

Changing to a digital screen threw up other challenges, for example ensuring the screens could be dimmable.

If there was a tablet or screen beside each bed, wards could be "lit up like a Christmas tree"at night if screens could not be dimmed, impacting on patients’ sleep.

Other challenges were ensuring a robust level of checks, for example if paper records were removed, the technology replacing it needed to be very reliable, such as ensuring drugs could be administered very safely.

Another aspect being addressed by having a digital information system was providing solutions for people finding their way around the new hospital.

Digital signs and mobile apps, employing technology for easy navigation, could stop people from getting lost.

While the aim was to have a cloud-based digital system that was safe and secure, the information technology design also needed to be robust enough to withstand emergencies such as power failures.

"So what you design needs to be pretty resilient and fault tolerant."