Thursday, 01 October 2009 07:21

Mater pushes health IT

Queensland's Mater Health Services is a pace-setter when it comes to the application of IT within hospitals.

The Mater group of seven Queensland hospitals is a major not-for-profit health organisation, racking up 275,000 days of in-patient care, 200,000 outpatient services, 90,000 emergency attendances, 35,000 theatre cases, and 9000 deliveries during 2008.

"We're a big factory," observed CIO Malcolm Thatcher.

Consequently, Mater has a serious IT agenda, topped by a move towards electronic health records (EHRs). "Everyone's heading for the nirvana of getting rid of the paper," said Thatcher.

However, he conceded that the hospital will never be completely paperless as scanning of all the old patient charts in the hospitals' archive could not be justified, largely because clinicians discount the value of data that's more than a year old.

Another issue is that it is still a legal requirement that some documents (eg, pathology requests) are on paper and signed by the doctor.

Continuity of care is an important consideration. Heath care tends to be episodic, involving visits to general practitioners, hospitals, rehabilitation services and other providers.

Information must flow freely for optimal care, but Thatcher points out that  you can't have a national EHR if providers don't have their own EHRs. He suspects that Australia could be as much as a decade away from a national EHR.

Another goal is the integration of the various clinical systems in use at the hospitals. Thatcher explained that part of the problem is that "there's no ERP for health care," and consequently Mater needs to integrate information from a slew of individual 'best fit' applications that have been purchased or developed internally.

These and other goals are supported by a layered IT architecture comprising virtualised storage and servers, a Cisco medical-grade network (802.11a/g and Gigabit Ethernet), a data warehouse with analytics, around 240 applications, with Intersystems' Ensemble and Caché as an integration layer between the applications and a series of portals that provide access to clinicians, patients, and outside providers.

According to Thatcher, Cisco is the only network vendor committed to the needs of the health sector.

Mater is using or trialling a wide variety of devices, including Panasonic Toughbook tablets designed specifically for the medical setting, netbooks, Cisco wireless phones and various other handheld devices, OCR pens, voice recognition (for dictation) and RFID tags on equipment and patient wristbands.

The hospitals are also committed to remote monitoring technology. Mater expects all bedside devices to connect to the network so clinicians have access to the data wherever they are.

Despite Mater's huge efforts to advance the use of IT in the medical setting, its IT expenditure is approximately 2% of revenue - "that's about [the] industry norm," said Thatcher.

Projects set to go live in the coming months include the digital recording of labour and birth details using a touchscreen system to eliminate paper form the birthing suite; a patient data management system for newborns that will, for example, remind staff to check certain pathology results; a clinical information system for the neonatal intensive care unit allowing clinicians to remotely check the progress of premature babies; and an integrated nurse-call system.

Mater is one of the first Australian hospitals to appoint a chief medical information officer (CMIO), although the position is well established in the US where around one-third of hospitals and other health care facilities have a CMIO.

Paul Devenish-Meares has been associated with Mater for the bulk of his 38 years in medicine, most recently as director of obstetrics and gynaecology.  He still works as a part-time obstetrics staff specialist in addition to his three-tenths appointment as CMIO.

Devenish-Meares noted Mater executives' commitment to the importance of IT, as well as the significance of the teamwork and collaboration between staff in the IT and clinical areas of the hospitals.

He also pointed out the importance of wireless communications in the hospital setting, due to the need for access at the point of care.

Stephen Withers travelled to the Cisco Networkers conference as a guest of the company.

Subscribe to Newsletter here

WEBINAR INVITE: Exploring Emerging Strategies for 5G Monetization

Network Operators continue to invest in 5G and build out their infrastructure.

With the recent impact of world events, the pressure is on to explore additional ways beyond traditional subscription models to monetize existing investments and speed up returns.

Creative thinking is key in this space, and in this webinar, you will learn about innovative ideas for Network Operators and Enterprise Business to enable new services and opportunities to drive incremental revenue.

Join us for this thought-provoking webinar with ITR Analyst, Marc Einstein, where you will learn about:

- Key industry 5G trends
- How COVID-19 is driving innovation and potential new business opportunities and applications for 5G

Click below to register your interest for the AUGUST 26, 4PM WEBINAR (AEST)



It's all about Webinars.

These days our customers Advertising & Marketing campaigns are mainly focussed on Webinars.

If you wish to promote a Webinar we recommend at least a 2 week campaign prior to your event.

The iTWire campaign will include extensive adverts on our News Site and prominent Newsletter promotion and Promotional News & Editorial.

For covid-19 assistance we have extended terms, a Webinar Business Booster Pack and other supportive programs.

We look forward to discussing your campaign goals with you. Please click the button below.


Stephen Withers

joomla visitors

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.





Guest Opinion

Guest Interviews

Guest Reviews


Guest Research & Case Studies

Channel News