15 June 2016

Injecting innovation into Australia’s hospitals

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Facing a $57 billion budget cut and increased demand on resources, Australia’s hospitals are looking for ways to innovate.

Australian hospitals are facing a challenging time. It’s no secret that our population is constantly and rapidly growing. Recent projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest our population will grow to 40 million by 2060, and over 50 million by 2100. This means demand on our hospital system will inevitably rise.

The population is also ageing, placing new and increasing demands on our healthcare system. For example, the ABC reported spending on palliative care has increased by around 80 per cent over the past five years.

These challenges would be difficult to meet at the best of times, but the issue of funding makes things even more complicated. In the 2014 budget, a $57 billion cut to federal healthcare funding was announced, to commence in 2017. This means in the near future hospitals will be doing a lot more work with a lot less funding.

The situation is not completely dire, however. A number of Australian hospitals are finding new and innovative ways to meet these challenges. Faced with the challenges of being more cost efficient, dealing with increased patient flow and balancing efficiency with quality patient care, these hospitals are rising to the occasion.

Gold Coast University Hospital gets appy

The problem: In any successful relationship, communication is key. The same goes for hospital staff. Particularly when staff work after hours, patient care needs often can’t be communicated quickly, which means less efficiency and potentially worsening of the patient’s condition. This costs hospitals time and money.

The solution: Medical Principal House Officer Dr Justin Wong, Dr Siddharth Sharma and Damian Green, Executive Director, People, Systems and Performance developed the OnCallogist mobile app. The app promotes better and more efficient communication between nurses and doctors and provides real-time patient information to clinicians.
In a media statement, Dr Wong said “Since February 2015, we have attended to more than 10,950 requests and sent out 20,420 push notifications to relevant staff, improving the response times dramatically for our patients.”

Princes Alexandra Hospital leads the revolution 

The problem: In an age when seemingly everything is online, most hospitals still rely on paper files and handwritten notes to record patient information. It’s not hard to see the potential problems here. Files go missing, information is recorded or read incorrectly and patient care needs are misunderstood. Spending precious time trying to find a patient’s file is a major source of frustration and inefficiency in hospitals.

The solution: Princess Alexandra is Australia’s first hospital to transition to entirely digital patient records. Patient data is automatically recorded on a dedicated device, and can be accessed from anywhere in the hospital. This significantly reduces the risk of transcription errors and allows staff to spend more time with patients, rather than chasing files around the hospital.

“This project means the 2000 paper records that circulate in our hospital at any given time will now be replaced by real-time patient information being sent to a secure EMR,” hospital chief executive Dr Richard Ashby said in a media statement.

“Given our proud history of clinical innovation, I’m delighted that the PA Hospital is leading this digital revolution,” he said.

Australia’s hospitals are facing a challenging time, but a little innovation can go a long way. By identifying their key problems and introducing systems to solve them, hospital managers can meet the challenges of increased demand and reduced funding.

Christian Berechree joined Akolade’s production team in May 2016. He has a Bachelor of Media and Music and a Masters in Journalism.

Christian is a musical theatre geek and a new dad, and he’ll happily spend hours telling you about either or both of those things.

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