COVID-19 has spurred a leading Western Australian health service to accelerate its shift to automating patient data collection and sharing, with hospital management today reporting improved accuracy, access, and treatment times under the new approach.

The North Metro Health Service (NMHS), a group of hospitals covering more than a quarter of the W.A population, says it was able to develop and launch a brand new application in two weeks to automate the collection and sharing of data in COVID-19 testing.

Through a partnership with Microsoft, NMHS developed a “Power App” which allows patients information from a staff administered questionnaire to be entered on a mobile app one time. The information is then available to doctors if the patient tests positive to COVID-19.

The data, which includes patient information, symptoms and pre-existing conditions is stored in WA Health’s data warehouse and is currently only available to doctors and hospital consultants but may be extended nursing staff in the future.

“The beauty of it is that when you open the app, you’ve got a short medical history of the patient that you’re dealing with,” says Michael Campbell, Manager of Business Information and Performance at NMHS. “Rather than weeding through reams of paper, I can have a look at this and say, ‘All right, this patient’s a diabetic. She’s got hypertension, she’s got ischemic heart disease. She’s a smoker’.” 

The app also assists in auditing patient treatment by providing a more definitive record of which procedures have occurred. And to ensure continuity of care when patients leave hospital the data can also be shared with patients’ GPs.

Previously the W.A hospital group had largely been reliant on manual data collection, which had been prone to inaccuracies and repetition, ultimately slowing down treatment, according to Microsoft.

“WA Health does not yet have widespread electronic medical records,” a Microsoft case study says. “But the natural enemy of manual data collections using a pen and paper is PPE – personal protective equipment – where staff are gowned, masked and gloved which makes manipulating a pen and filling out multiple paper forms impossible as paper can’t be wiped down to clean off viruses.

“Manual data collection also increases the risk of error, makes it hard to provide rapid access to previously collected information, and can lead to patients being asked to provide the same information time after time.”

Microsoft says there is potential to take a similar approach to asthma clinics and pulmonary conditions. The records will be able to integrate to a wider system of electronic records in the future.

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