ACT Govt enlists Epic to deploy ‘world-leading’ Digital Health Record system

Digital Health Record ACT Government

The ACT Government has announced it will move forward with a full rollout of its “world-leading” Digital Health Record system, promising Territory clinicians access to real-time, detailed patient data.

Through the new system, which will cost the ACT Government $114.1 million to implement, health practitioners will be promised a “holistic”, up-to-date view of patient information recorded across all clinician visits.

A digital health record will follow patients “through their entire journey within the public health system, from referral to discharge and into the community”, said Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith.

The Digital Health Record system forms part of the ACT Government’s broader Digital Health Strategy released last year, seeking a “future-focused” public health system with “digital innovation” at its core.

The strategy focuses on improving the patient experience as well as Government and industry collaborations, resulting in increased patient safety and, ultimately, more effective healthcare.

Minister Stephen-Smith said the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of having up-to-date and accurate patient health records.

“A digital health record will improve the flow of information throughout our public health system,” she said.

“Having critical details about patients readily available will help inform clinical decisions quickly and efficiently.”

The digital records overhaul will serve to combat shortcomings within the ACT’s existing healthcare system, which currently operates across “more than 250 systems”, the Digital Health Strategy states, making changes within the system difficult.

The ACT Government’s Digital Health Strategy also outlines several areas for improvement within the current system – for instance, an overreliance on paper-based records, the abundance of multiple sources of patient information and the implementation of various service-specific systems, which has led to the fragmentation and siloing of information.

US-based software company Epic has been selected to build and deploy the patient records system, which will be implemented across ACT public hospitals, community health centres, and walk-in centres.

More than 100 new jobs are expected to be created for Canberra residents as a result of the implementation.

The Digital Health Record has reportedly been successfully deployed in select public hospital systems within the ACT.

ACT Health chief information officer Peter O’Halloran said: “Some of the safety and quality benefits that other health services have realised as a direct result of using Epic’s software include reduced mortality rates, reduced medication errors, and an increase in staff and patient satisfaction.”

O’Halloran said the system would also support the addition of new front-end services, including a patient portal, telehealth capabilities and opportunities for artificial intelligence.

The new Digital Health Record system is expected to work in conjunction with the national My Health Record system.

However, the ACT incarnation will include more detailed information within a patient’s record, such as observations from clinicians and details about any medication administered to the patient.

Implementation of the new system will begin in early 2021; the Territory Government expects it to be up and running by 2022-23.

Darlene Cox, executive director of the Health Care Consumers’ Association, was supportive of the announcement.

“A common experience of consumers is the frustration of having to repeat key information about themselves, their medical history and current medications to multiple clinicians,” she said.

“This investment will see the implementation of a system that will mean care is safer, better connected and more focused on consumer-centred care.”