Development of an online appointment scheduling system, more sophisticated use of data analytics, and mobile access solutions are just a few of the projects earmarked for delivery over the next ten years, according to NSW Health’s new eHealth Strategy.
The eHealth Strategy for NSW Health 2016-2026 outlines six focus areas for investment: core clinical systems; integrated care solutions; workforce and business management systems; data analytics; infrastructure, security and intelligence; and access to information.
However, unlike Queensland which identified that $1.26 billion could be spent on transforming health IT systems over the next 20 years in its inaugural eHealth Investment Strategy, NSW has provided no specific dollar figure for the initiatives within its strategy. NSW’s last major funding announcement was made in March 2015, providing a $300 million investment package for eHealth initiatives between 2015-16 and 2018-19.
The Strategy instead provides “direction for eHealth investment so that NSW Health organisations can harness innovations and solution in clinical care, patient engagement, business services and smart infrastructure to meet future demands.” This includes three ‘horizons’ – building consistent foundations (years one to four), integration (years one to seven) and personalisation (years one to ten).
Launching the Strategy at the 2016 CeBIT Conference in Sydney, NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said “driving innovation and embracing the power of ICT, this Strategy outlines a direction that takes into account the latest advances in health technology, policy directions including Integrated Care and ongoing enhancements to performance, quality and safety in our health system.”
Core Clinical Systems
Over the next four years, NSW Health aims to mature its current ICT footprint by transitioning to an integrated “paper-lite” core clinical information systems ecosystem, which will include:
- Expanding the Electronic Medical Record (eMR) to all local health divisions (LHDs), beyond the hospital setting;
- enhancing the Incident Management System (IMS) to deliver a patient-friendly feedback portal that can provide user-configurable dashboards for NSW Health staff to reduce recurrence of incidents; and
- establishing a common pathology messaging model across NSW Health for centralised storage of pathology data.
Integrated Care Solutions
In the next one to ten years, NSW Health will introduce technology to support alternative models of healthcare, including:
- Developing an online appointment scheduling system to interface with local electronic health systems and allow patients to book appointments online;
- expanding use of video conferencing technology in LHDs to facilitate virtual consultations;
- implementing a standard state-wide conference, collaboration, communication and messaging capability;
- supporting remote patient monitoring using patient biometric monitoring devices and monitoring and alerts platforms that would integrate with existing health records and data repositories; and
- improving real-time feedback for patient reporting, which could then be combined with analytics to improve patient outcomes.
Data and Analytics
Ahead of the release of the 2016 NSW Health Analytics Framework to “drive broader and more sophisticated analytics use across the system”, the Strategy intends to standardise data; improve data acquisition, data linking and storage; use new data (including from wearable devices); and enhance data mobilisation by improving data exchange/brokerage solutions and collaborating with the NSW Government Data Analytics Centre.
Access to Information
NSW Health will work towards seamless information flow between core systems through further coordination and integration of core systems. This will require “interoperability of technology solutions and active engagement of technology vendors to enable access and information sharing between systems,” states the Strategy.
A single portal will also be set up to simplify access to staff systems and reduce administration times. “More intuitive and mobile-enabled solutions” would also be implemented to improve utilisation of technology capabilities.
Infrastructure Security and Intelligence
Within the next three years all LHDs will have core connection to the Health Wide Area Network (HWAN) – NSW’s high speed clinical grade network. In this time NSW Health “will focus on centralised resourcing and cost-effective implementation of applications and services.” This aligns with the completion of the NSW Health’s consolidation of local data centres into NSW’s Whole-of-Government Data Centres, which is expected to finish by late 2019.
A digital identity framework, improved “same sign-on” capabilities and proximity technology will also be implemented to improve identity management.
The Strategy follows the permanent appointed of Zoran Bolevich as eHealth NSW Chief Executive/Chief Information Officer in early March 2016. Bolevich had been acting CIO since inaugural head Michael Walsh assumed the role of Queensland Health Director-General in July 2015.