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Improving Rural and Remote Care for Patients ‘Down Under’

Australian flag

To improve patient care for rural and remote residents of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, the NSW Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFSD) is implementing an electronic medical record (EMR) system to ensure that residents have access to more timely and efficient care.

How the New EMR System Will Improve Care

A new study, conducted by the Queensland RFDS, suggested that digital medical records could help reduce data interpretation inaccuracies versus manual data recording by up to 30 percent.

“Across Australia, the RFDS cared for more than 335,000 Australians in 2017. Like many other healthcare services, until now, the majority of medical records have been hand-written, which has significant limitations,” said Will Ibbotson MD, RFSD medical officer and anesthetist.

“By digitizing our medical records, we can set a gold standard for data recording, and have a wealth of medical history at our fingertips when making treatment decisions. Ultimately, this will help us provide higher quality, safer, and more integrated care that will save more lives.”

Better-Quality Clinical Care
The RFDS provides aeromedical retrieval of critical care patients across New South Wales. This differs from many other pre-hospital care and retrieval services because patients are at an early, unstable stage, and often have prolonged transfer times in excess of two hours – which presents unique challenges in the provision of safe and effective medical care. Therefore, understanding each patient’s medical history is crucial to decide factors, such as whether air transport is appropriate in the first place, and if so, which specialist doctors, nurses and equipment are needed. The new system has been custom-designed for the NSW RFDS to meet the unique needs of the service.

Enhanced Governance and Assurance
Using digital records the service expects to improve consistency in data and show the true value of the service in terms of patient outcomes. This will help government and key health bodies, such as NSW Health, evaluate the service and allocate resources where appropriate.

Expanded Clinical Education
Data analyses will support providing specialized training for medical doctors of the future, including tailoring training for individuals and establishing new procedures. Partner organizations (such as the University Of Sydney School Of Rural Health) can utilize data-driven case studies to support them on their EMR implementation journey.

Organizational Enhancement
EMR analytics will help optimize care services to improve efficiencies and enable better decision making on where and when staff and key services are needed in the clinical setting.

John Daniels, global vice president of HIMSS Analytics, called RFDS of Australia a global center of excellence in digital transformation.

“EMRs have been shown to improve quality, safety, cost-effectiveness, and access to healthcare around the world,” Daniels said. “Australia has been a real hot spot for adopting digital health innovations, and it’s great that these advancements can help those in rural and remote areas, where access to world-class technology can be limited.”

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