RFDS adopts new electronic medical record

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The NSW Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has announced the launch of a new electronic medical record system designed to improve patient care for rural and remote residents of Australia. 

According to Dr William Ibbotson, medical officer and anaesthetist for the Royal Flying Doctors Service, before the introduction of electronic medical records all clinical record keeping was paper-based.

A new study conducted by the Queensland RFDS suggests digital medical records could help reduce data interpretation inaccuracies compared to manual data recording by up to 30 per cent.

“Across Australia, the RFDS cared for more than 335,000 Australians in 2017. Like many other healthcare services, until now, the majority of medical records have been hand-written, which has significant limitations,” said Dr Ibbotson.

“By digitising our medical records, we can set a gold standard for data recording, and have a wealth of medical history at our fingertips when making treatment decisions. Ultimately, this will help us provide higher quality, safer, and more integrated care that will save more lives.”

The RFDS provides aeromedical retrieval of critical care patients across New South Wales. This differs from many other pre-hospital care and retrieval services because patients are at an early, unstable stage, and often have prolonged transfer times in excess of 2 hours.

The organisation said this makes understanding each patient’s medical history crucial to factors such as whether air transport is appropriate, which specialist doctors and nurses, and what equipment are needed.

The new system has been custom-designed for the NSW RFDS.

“The RFDS is almost unique around the world in that we essentially bring an intensive care unit (ICU) across vast distances, directly to the patient,” said Dr Ibbotson said.

“While there are other ambulance or airborne medical units in Australia and countries, such as the flying doctors in the U.S. and Canada, and metro helicopter services in the UK and Sydney, remote and rural Australia has exceptional challenges in connecting patients with specialist care providers. This means that the new system is bespoke to the NSW RFDS.”

The organisation said the new system will provide additional benefits such as improving consistency in data, analysis, and a general improvement in operational efficiencies.

According to John Daniels, global vice president of HIMSS Analytics, the RFDS of Australia was a global centre of excellence in digital transformation.

“Electronic medical records have been shown to improve quality, safety, cost-effectiveness, and access to healthcare around the world,” said Mr Daniels.

“Australia has been a real hot spot for adopting digital health innovations, and it’s great that these advancements can help those in rural and remote areas, where access to world-class technology can be limited.”

Dr Ibbotson concluded, “The HIMSS AsiaPac 18 conference is a great opportunity to collaborate with global leaders in digital healthcare. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to learn from the likes of military healthcare and trauma leaders. In the future, I hope that we can help roll out these advancements across the whole South East Australia RFDS.”