Five clinical laboratory information systems are part of the transition that will create a single statewide EMR for all New South Wales patients
In a massive project, Australia’s New South Wales Ministry of Health (NSW Health) has selected health information system developer Epic to unify its five pathology laboratory information management systems (LIMS), nine electronic medical record systems (EMR), and six patient administration systems (PAS) into a statewide single digital patient record (SDPR).
According to ITnews, providers in New South Wales currently use LIMS systems by Citadel Health and Integrated Software Solutions OMNI-Lab, EMR systems by Oracle Cerner and Orion Health, and patient administration systems from Oracle Cerner and DXC.
“The SDPR will consolidate geographically fragmented EMR, PAS, and LIMS systems to create a detailed lifelong patient record and deliver cost savings,” NSW Health said in a news release.
NSW Health is the largest public health system in Australia with more than 220 public hospitals, 16 Local Health Districts, and three Specialty Networks. NSW Health Pathology operates more than 60 pathology laboratories (clinical laboratories in the US) and has 150 patient service centers.
“While this initiative will provide untold benefits to all the patients of NSW, we are excited about its potential for improving the health outcomes of our regional patients,” said Andrew Montague (above), former Chief Executive, Central Coast Local Health District in a press release. “By enabling greater collaboration across all local health districts and specialty health networks, the Single Digital Patient Record will provide clinicians with even better tools to keep the patient at the center of everything we do.” This project is more market evidence of the trend to bring clinical laboratory test results from multiple lab sites into a single data repository. (Photo copyright: Coast Community News.)
Cloud-based Realtime Access to Patient Records
Australia has a population of about 26 million and New South Wales, a state on the east coast, is home to more than eight million people. Though the scale of healthcare in Australia is much smaller than in the US, this is still a major project to pull patient data together from all the NSW hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other healthcare providers such as clinical laboratories and pathology practices.
With the change, NSW clinicians will benefit from a cloud–based system offering up real-time access to patients’ medical records, NSW Health Pathology Chief Executive Tracey McCosker told ITnews.
“Patients and our busy staff will benefit from clinical insights gained from the capture of important new data. Our work in pathology is vital to the diagnostic process and developing a statewide laboratory information management system will ensure we provide the best possible services,” McCosker told ITnews.
The KLAS Research report, “US Hospital Market Share 2022,” states that Epic, located in Verona, Wisconsin, has the largest US electronic health record (EHR) market share, Healthgrades noted. According to KLAS:
- Epic has a 32.9% share of the EHR market,
- ahead of Oracle Cerner at 24.4%,
- MEDITECH at 16.7%, and
- Allscripts (now Veradigm) at 4.3%.
NSW Health’s decision to engage Epic came after a process involving 350 clinicians, scientists, and technical experts, Zoran Bolevich, MD, Chief Executive of eHealth NSW and NSW Health’s Chief Information Officer, told ITnews.
NSW Health’s Goal for Statewide Digital Patient Record
It was in December 2020 when NSW Health announced its plan to create the SDPR.
“Our vision is to be able to provide a single, holistic, statewide view of every patient—and for that information to be readily accessible to anyone involved in the patient’s care,” Bolevich said in the news release.
The SDPR, according to NSW Health, will address the following:
- Current systems not connected statewide.
- Inaccessible patient data.
- Duplicative data collection.
- Gaps in decision-making.
- Improve health outcomes.
- Create patient centricity.
- Leverage insights.
NSW’s government has already invested more than $106 million in the SDPR, Healthcare IT News reported.
Other Large EHR Rollouts
NSW Health is not the only large organization to take on such an ambitious project of creating a large-scale digital patient record. And not always to a successful conclusion.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—also intent on EHR modernization—recently announced it is suspending roll-out of the Oracle Cerner EHR at VA centers until June 2023 to address technical issues affecting appointments, referrals, and test results.
Four VA centers in Washington, Oregon, and Ohio already went live with the system in 2022.
“We are delaying all future deployments of the new EHR while we fully assess performance and address every concern. Veterans and clinicians deserve a seamless, modernized health record system, and we will not rest until they get it,” said Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy, JD, in a news release.
For its part, Oracle Cerner wrote federal lawmakers noting the importance of continuing the project, which will move the VA away from its former VistA health information system.
“Modernization requires change and some short-term pain for the long-term benefits of a modern technology infrastructure,” noted Oracle Cerner Executive Vice President Ken Glueck in the letter, Becker’s Health IT reported. “A modernization project of this scale and scope necessarily involves time to untangle the decades of customized processes established in support of VistA, which inevitably involves challenges.”
NSW Health’s goal is to build a single repository of health information—including lab test results from multiple clinical laboratory sites. When finished NSW Health expects that sharing patient data will contribute to producing better healthcare outcomes.
However, the VA’s experience—and several other similar attempts at large-scale electronic patient record installations—suggest the work ahead will not be easy. But for NSW Health, it may be worth the effort.
—Donna Marie Pocius
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Single Digital Patient Record (SDPR)