Critical Analysis of Patient Care Information Systems in Australia

Introduction

The purpose of the healthcare sector is to maximise the experiences and medical outcomes of the targeted population. The Australian government has implemented a powerful structure that ensures that majority of the citizens receive timely, reliable and affordable medical care. This goal has been achieved due to the presence of an effective Medicare program that the government funds using acquired taxes. In the recent past, both private and public organisations in this sector have been keen to identify emerging technologies and innovations that have the potential to improve patient care delivery.

Despite some of the recorded barriers and gaps, the adoption of patient care information systems is an evidence-based approach that continues to improve the experiences of more Australians. This critical analysis paper gives a detailed analysis of such systems in this country, the current obstacles and future strategies towards improving information management (IM) and knowledge management (KM) in this country’s health care. Both international and national case studies are presented throughout this discussion to explain how Australia can record additional gains in this field.

Patient Care Information Systems in Australia

Brief Overview

Health information systems (HISs) are powerful structures utilised to manage and distribute data to improve the delivery of medical services. Such modern technologies are capable of collecting, transmitting and storing information electronically, thereby supporting the formulation of timely medical, policy and managerial decisions in the sector (Mastrian & McGonigle, 2016). In Australia, one of the government’s topmost priorities has been to provide high-quality healthcare support and services to the greatest number of citizens (Shahmoradi, Safadari, & Jimma, 2017). This aim has been realised through the promotion of seamless integration of a wide range of facilities and resources. Several patient care information systems have been considered to deliver positive results.

The journey towards the introduction and implementation of powerful systems has been long. In the year 1995, the government launched the National Health Information Development Plan with the aim of transforming the way health data was collected and utilised to inform decisions (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). The purpose of this initiative was to improve the way different medical facilities and institutions acquired patient data and used available information to transform service delivery (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). Over the years, different agencies and government-sponsored organisations have supported national health information systems that analyse and compare the acquired data. There are specified data collection centers that acquire information related to health and share it with the relevant stakeholders.

Several efforts were considered throughout the journey to improve the way Australia managed its health data. In 2003, a national plan was launched that was aimed at creating the best foundation for an effective e-health system (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). This effort led to the establishment of the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) in the year 2005 (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). The purpose of such an agency was to ensure that the entire country has succeeded in introducing an effective electronic health information system (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). NEHTA went a step further to propose an effective infrastructure and standards to launch the program.

Some of the critical areas included the promotion of a common language to facilitate or support communication and ensure that all organisations, providers and even patients had their unique identifiers or numbers. By 2012, NEHTA had managed to present a Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) that has managed to engage carers and their respective clients or patients (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). Each PCEHR delivers the clinical documents of a patient, additional medical observations, laboratory results or tests, medical enrolment, immunisation information and any use of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Currently, the government has supported various eHealth programs for both providers and beneficiaries. A good example is the My Health Record that has over 6 million enrolees. The government is keen to continue expanding this system by ensuring that more practitioners and physicians are connected to patients. In 2019, the government indicated that plans were underway to expand the established My Health Record to cover every willing citizen (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019).

Additionally, many hospitals and clinics across this country have introduced electronic medical records (EMRs) that have replaced traditional paper charts and records. Many physicians, clinicians and professionals consult such systems to learn more about a specific patient’s medical history, treatment regimes, drugs, allergies and past recommendations. This kind of practice has improved the sector’s ability to deliver personalised and timely medical services to more patients. The universal nature of EMRs in Australia explains why more facilities and organisations have acquired similar software resources to maximise data sharing (Drix & Sambasivan, 2018). This kind of approach has improved the effectiveness and superiority of Australia’s universal healthcare system.

The utilisation of analytics is a reality in this country’s medical sector. Such a model is making it possible for the government to fund and transform the quality of services available to more patients (Drix & Sambasivan, 2018). Many hospitals have introduced superior mechanisms and procedures to acquire patient data and use it to improve quality. For example, Hambleton and Aloizos (2019) reveal that the use of different forms of health information systems have improved the way consultations and treatments are made in different medical facilities. The availability of advanced software makes it possible to capture timely data, report and even track acquired data.

Some institutions have gone further to employ technological experts and consulting firms to support and improve the documentation process (Palojoki, Mäkelä, Lehtonen, & Saranto, 2017). Consequently, such facilities have continued to record positive health outcomes, thereby empowering the greatest number of Australians.

Current Challenges

The main objectives of the Australian National Digital Health Strategy has been to improve the nature of care coordination, ensure that more people receive high-quality services, minimise costs throughout the care delivery, reduce hospitalisations and reduce the experiences of both carers and patients. These aims can be achieved when all stakeholders coordinate, share ideas and focus on a common goal. The availability of real-time information to more people within the entire healthcare sector is a development that is improving the availability of medical services (Shahmoradi et al., 2017). With the planned improvements and ideas, chances are high that such goals will be achieved within the next few years.

Unfortunately, the lessons identified from the past indicate that there are specific obstacles that will continue to affect the implementation of patient care information systems or make it impossible for more citizens to record positive health results. For instance, Drix and Sambasivan( 2018) revealed that the level of utilisation and uptake of PCEHR was quite low and below expectation. The main reasons why this happened to be the case was because majority of the Australians and medical experts lacked adequate knowledge in computer technologies and systems. Since majority of these stakeholders studied or schooled at a time when such innovations were underdeveloped, it was becoming impossible for them to appreciate and introduce them to improve the quality of medical services.

The absence of a powerful model for integrating all clinical information and data guidelines is a major barrier that makes it impossible for Australia to have effective patient care information systems. The nature of the healthcare sector creates a scenario whereby private and public entities or facilities are allowed to run independently. Some of the proposed measures have not compelled or guided these organisations to partner and share their common resources (Kim, Coiera, & Magrabi, 2017). Consequently, it has been impossible for exports to make informed inferences and insights that can be utilised to improve the manner in which data and information sharing is done. This obstacle has minimised the number of Australians who can receive timely and high-quality medical services.

The involvement and role of patients within the healthcare information system is a major obstacle that discourages them from enrolling for the My Health Record. The reason why this happens to be the case is that such individuals lack trust or are unaware of how they become part of the entire process to improve the nature of care available to them (Coye, 2016). Additionally, the government has failed to introduce powerful programs to educate more people in various regions about the importance of emerging information technologies in healthcare. This gap has made it hard for this country to have uniform or standardised patient care information systems that can maximise the health services available to different patients.

The issue of useful clinical or patient content is an area that many stakeholders have failed to address successfully. Any effective health system needs to capture the right information in a timely manner depending on the medical problem the targeted patient is facing. Modern systems implemented in Australia are yet to be personalised (Drix & Sambasivan, 2018). This means that an effective model is needed to ensure that the collected and shared data is relevant and matches the expectations of both the patient and the medical professional.

The evolving nature of modern technologies is another possible challenge affecting the integrity and nature of patient care information systems in Australia and across the globe. This is true since medical institutions and government agencies have to update them and acquire superior or emerging software to improve operations. Many small facilities and clinics in various rural regions might not be able to update their systems continually (Drix & Sambasivan, 2018).

The end result is that most of the professionals will rely and older technologies to share data and patient information (Kuo, Kim, & Ohno-Machado, 2017). Consequently, it will remain impossible for the beneficiaries to record desirable medical outcomes. The government might also be unable to sponsor or support all facilities to streamline their information systems and improve the quality of available medical services (Byrne, 2017). My Health Record has not yet reached the intended critical mass in this country (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). Unless such a system is embedded in clinical workflow, chances are high that more Australians will not record positive health outcomes.

Finally, the risks associated with modern health informatics and patient care systems make them less appropriate for many medical facilities and citizens. It is evident that many Australians are yet to sign up for My Health Record due to the security and privacy concerns associated with them. The government is yet to convince more people about the safety measures that have been put in place to protect the acquired health information and reduce cases of fraud (Hambleton & Aloizos, 2019). This challenge needs to be addressed if this country is to reap the full benefits of patient care information systems.

Case Studies and Future Directions

The case of Germany can become a powerful model for introducing superior incentives and approaches that have the potential to transform the way modern patient care informatics are employed to add value to different patients. According to Busetto, Kiselev, Luijkx, Steinhagen-Thiessen, Vrijhoef (2017), the interviewees from a German geriatric medical facility revealed that there was a need for emerging technologies to identify other family members and encourage them to provide timely updates about every patient’s health condition. Similarly, the concept of multidisciplinary cooperation was capable of minimising the level of workload and wastage (Busetto et al., 2017).

Such an approach was capable of streamlining operations, ensuring that timely data was collected and distributed across the system (Mandal, 2017). The introduction or consideration of such best practices will decrease the number of sentinel events recorded in many facilities and make it possible for more patients to record positive health outcomes.

The lessons from both emerging and developed economies can guide stakeholders in Australia to implement new models that will transform the way patient care information systems are adopted to improve health service delivery. Braithwaite et al. (2017) observed that many countries were considering new frameworks that monitored patients’ needs and used them to drive meaningful policy reforms. Some governments were also combining IT technologies with patient information systems to produce meaningful intelligence that could be utilised to transform service delivery (McNicol, Hutchinson, Wood, Botti, & Redley, 2018). Partnership among all stakeholders was also a critical approach for delivering mutual aims and ensuring that the level of safety was improved.

In the United States, many facilities and organisations have launched powerful programs to guide and encourage more patients to be involved in continuous learning and eventually acquire additional information about their medical situations. This kind of knowledge has guided them to match their needs with the available resources and medications from different facilities (Islam, Poly, & Li, 2018). The development has been augmented through the use of additional features in various patient care information systems that empower patients to make informed ideas or decisions (Braithwaite et al., 2017). Such programs go further to offer suggestions for lifestyle changes or adjustments (Pinheiro et al., 2016). The inclusion of such ideas within this country’s health information systems will ensure that more patients record positive results.

The most important aspect of IM and KM is to ensure that the acquired data is utilised effectively to improve care delivery and empower the targeted patient. The Australian government has considered desirable measures and approaches to promote the acquisition and recording of the required patient information in different facilities and organisations (Balestra, 2017). In order to record positive KM, there is a need for the relevant ministries and agencies to strike a balance and support the effectiveness of these three components: process, people and technology (Delaney, 2018).

The adoption of a reliable strategy will improve the level of knowledge sharing by maximising the nature of information flow and virtual communication (Aziz, 2017). All parties should be linked in such a way that they improve the levels of transparency and decision-making. The available data and information will be matched with previous documents in an attempt to present better ideas for delivering patient services (Ahmed, Ahmad, & Othman, 2016). When all people are involved and informed about the anticipated goals and available resources, chances are high that positive knowledge management scores will be recorded in the greatest number of medical institutions in Australia (Street, Somoray, Richards, & Lacey, 2019). The end result is that more people will receive timely and high-quality medical services, thereby being empowered to pursue their goals in life.

Conclusion

The above discussion has revealed that the government of Australia has managed to implement and support powerful patient care information systems that are informed by past technological developments and breakthroughs. These achievements have supported the health needs of the greatest number of Australians. However, there are specific obstacles that make it impossible for the country to record desirable outcomes in this area, including privacy and security concerns, inadequate clinical information or content, incomplete integration of clinical data systems and mistrust in modern computer systems.

The case studies presented above can offer meaningful insights for addressing the situation and ensuring that KM is pursued in a professional manner. The collaboration of all key stakeholders and the involvement of patients’ family members in the clinical decision-making process will transform the situation and improve the way modern informatics and patient care information systems are utilised to improve patients’ medical experiences in Australia.

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