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Electronic records vital to patient safety

May 1 2007

Electronic records vital to patient safety

Changes have been made to software that is used by 75% of New Zealand’s GPs so that patients’ records carry identification on all pages sent electronically or by fax to other health providers.

The response follows the death of an elderly man at Auckland City Hospital in 2004.

Vino Ramayah, executive chairman of New Zealand’s leading medical record software systems provider MedTech Global, says it is regrettable any death had to occur and he extends his sympathy to the family and friends of the patient.

A report by Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson reveals a mix up in the way doctors’ referral letters and medication records received by fax were then collated at the hospital.

The report outlines how Patient C’s medication records were attached to Patient B’s by mistake. By the time it was picked up it was too late for Patient B and he died as a result of receiving the wrong drugs.

Mr Ramayah says as soon as MedTech Global, along with all software systems providers, was alerted by the hospital to the potential for a mix up of patient referral material, it immediately informed its customers of this risk and initiated a software change process. The Royal College of Surgeons told the Commissioner this change had taken place.

MedTech’s software now makes sure patient identification and page numbers appear on material that is faxed by computer or by fax machine to hospitals and other health care providers.

Mr Ramayah says MedTech, which was founded in New Zealand 25 years ago, designs and implements systems for health care providers internationally. It is constantly fine tuning to meet new requirements as those providers slowly embrace complete electronic management technology.

“Our systems have always been designed with patient safety as a key focus,” he says. “While we can never hope to pre-empt every administration error, we will do all we can with our systems to help minimise it.”

In welcoming NZ Health Minister Pete Hodgson’s announcement that funding for further improvements in electronic health records for patients would be in the government’s Budget on May 17, Mr Ramayah says it is vital for patient safety that electronic records are able to be efficiently and securely sent to health care providers when required.

ENDS

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