The NSW Health Minister has described digital health as the golden way forward and health as the state government’s top priority, as he oversees spending at an unprecedented level to deliver pioneering healthcare facilities.

With the implementation of a technology ecosystem underway in NSW described as the largest of its kind in Australia, Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said “no matter where you go in the state” you’ll encounter a project.

“We are spending a fortune,” Hazzard told Healthcare IT News Australia.

In the seven years since the government came to power, he said it had spent over $400 million on the roll out of eplatforms, with another $500 million in expenditure earmarked over the next few years. Almost $8 billion dollars will be spent over the next four years on additional health infrastructure.

It is a sign that health outranks roads, schools and policing on the government’s list of priorities.

“Everywhere you go across the state, health is the number one priority for the government,” said Hazzard.

As part of the digital transformation, Sydney’s Sutherland Hospital is the latest to introduce the Electronic Record for Intensive Care, according to eHealth NSW this week. Replacing paper documentation, eRIC integrates ICU patient data and is now live throughout nine hospitals across the state.

Clinicians at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, the Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS), and hospitals in Southern NSW and mid-North Coast Local Health Districts are also able to access diagnostic-quality medical images, with an upgrade to the Enterprise Imaging Repository viewer software deployed in February.

“The name of the game is to try and deliver 21st century health facilities, not just for the cities but also the regions,” the minister said.

What this entails is the modernising of existing infrastructure as well as the construction of new facilities such as the upcoming new regional hospital in Tweed Heads.

“Ehealth is absolutely critical to both retrofitting older hospitals but also it’s the golden way forward for all new health facilities.”

NSW’s ehealth transformation also includes the roll out of a statewide electronic medical record, the HealtheNet clinical portal, the Clinical information Access Portal, the Endoscopy Information System, and integration with the Federal Government’s My Health Record, while the eMeds electronic medication management system will be rolled out to 18 hospitals spanning the six rural local health districts by the end of the year.

[Read more: "Bobby-dazzler" upgrade and “record hospital-building boom” for the state’s healthcare infrastructure in NSW Budget | Over half a billion dollars injected into digital healthcare conversion in NSW]

The investment will provide patients with the information they need to take greater control of their health, while clinicians can gain access to information that has been previously trapped in data silos.

“It allows patients to be empowered but also the clinicians to have the information at their fingertips, information they might otherwise have to struggle to get.” said Hazzard, who describes being Health Minister as “fun”.

The 10-year program is in line with the eHealth Strategy for NSW Health 2016-2026, and will lead to safer, more efficient and higher quality healthcare.

eHealth NSW and the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network has also joined the National Children’s Digital Health Collaborative, which will develop an electronic health record capturing information on a child’s health and development from conception. An Australian Digital Health Agency initiative, it would also include information on their mother’s pregnancy and track the health of individuals throughout their life.

The suite of implementations and innovations being undertaken by the NSW Government will ultimately all combine to provide patients with access to their consolidated health information, demystifying what can be a baffling process.

“Quite often patients report that they leave the doctors, they leave the hospital and they have no idea what went on, they have no idea what they’re supposed to do,” Hazzard said.

“They were told but they can't go and tell their next clinician what they were supposed to do because, heavens, they didn't know when they were there. And that's just because we're all normal, we’re not clinicians.”

The NSW public health system services 7.8 million residents throughout 228 hospitals with 135,000 staff. In 2016-17, there were 319,000 surgeries performed and 2.8 million emergency department presentations across the state.




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