Magazine article New Zealand Management

Information Technology : Improving Care with Technology; A Small Team of New Zealand and Australian Medical Specialists and Entrepreneurs Have Won Two Prestigious British Health Services Awards for a Software Package They Have Developed to Save Patients from Hospital Medical Misadventure. Reg Birchfield Talked with UK-Based Kiwi Sam Hollander, a Director of the Venture

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Information Technology : Improving Care with Technology; A Small Team of New Zealand and Australian Medical Specialists and Entrepreneurs Have Won Two Prestigious British Health Services Awards for a Software Package They Have Developed to Save Patients from Hospital Medical Misadventure. Reg Birchfield Talked with UK-Based Kiwi Sam Hollander, a Director of the Venture

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg Birchfield

Patientrack is a software response to a global health administration problem recognised by Dr Michael Buist, a New Zealand clinician and intensive care specialist now working in Australia. It is designed to save thousands of lives that are lost every year in hospitals around the world.

In the late 1980s Buist became concerned about the number of people who came to his intensive care ward and died. Many of them, he realised, were not coming through the hospital's front door, but rather from the hospital's own wards.

He and a group of clinicians did research in the early 1990s that led to the recognition and acceptance of a phenomenon called 'adverse events'. It happens when hospital patients get sicker because of the treatment and care they receive, or don't receive, rather than because of the illness for which they were originally admitted.

The medical profession was, in general terms, aware of the problem. It had not, however, been defined and was certainly not a topic that invited either discussion or even ready acknowledgement. Studies now show that up to 10 percent of all hospital admissions are affected by an adverse event, and as many as 10 percent of those affected, die. And, according to other Australian and UK studies, between 50 to 70 percent of adverse events are avoidable.

Up to 98,000 patients die from adverse events in United States' hospitals each year, 40,000 in the United Kingdom and 18,000 in Australia. Extrapolating those figures suggests around 3000 patients die in New Zealand hospitals from adverse events each year.

Buist's intensivist work in major Australian hospitals led him to conclude that early diagnosis of patients most at risk and early access to high level clinical assistance for them was a key to solving the problem.

In the late '90s and early years of 2000, Buist -- a West Coaster by birth and upbringing -- became the champion of Australia's concept of medical emergency teams, designed to counter the adverse events problem. He discovered, however, that while the processes created for early diagnosis and treatment could significantly reduce the incidence of misadventure, they did not work well enough to satisfy him.

Hospital ward cultures and procedures would, even with the best treatment and care intentions, too often mitigate against the right things happening.

The solution, Buist decided, lay with the use of information technology specifically designed to support the medical response processes. Patientrack is the outcome. And, after 14 months of trialling by the Central Manchester University Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust (CMFT), it has been declared a success.

Patientrack won the prestigious UK Healthy Service Journal prize for "improving care with technology" as a result of adopting and rolling it out to all adult and children's wards in CMFT's hospitals. CMFT also won an eHealth Insider award for the "best use of IT to promote patient safety" through its use of Patientrack.

The software delivers three critical patient management processes. It captures and manages the patient observations. Then, using an algorithm, it calculates and allocates an early warning score based on medical team observations. …

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