Flying doctors spend $2.7m on bush health records

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has entered into a five-year AU$2.7m contract with IBA Health to create a standardised system for its electronic health records.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has entered into a five-year AU$2.7m contract with IBA Health to create a standardised system for its electronic health records.

(Credit: Royal Flying Doctor Service)

The new system will help the Service's health professionals with its 12,000 annual clinical appointments across regional Australia.

Clinicians will be able to remotely access a patient's medical history, including allergies, immunisation records and current medications, via the internet-based system, and update the information during check-ups.

In time, it is hoped the system will also be accessible in aircraft. The RFDS Queensland operations are already using Telstra Next G to achieve this.

Some areas the RFDS visits don't have internet access. For these places, the RFDS will work together with IBA to develop a customised system which will allow "briefcasing" of medical records — taking files that are needed on laptops and synchronising them with the system when the clinician again has an internet connection.

(Credit: Royal Flying Doctor Service)

Ideally, the files will be briefcased from a central location, according to Gary Oldman, RFDS acting national ICT manager, but it depends on the amount of bandwidth required by the application. The Service has a server room in Sydney which could be considered as the central location, however, he said nothing has been finalised.

To have a network on which the system can run, the RFDS has to link together its separate Wide Area Networks. The Service has four areas of operations: South East (NSW, Tasmania, Victoria), Queensland, Central, (South Australia and Northern Territory) and West (Western Australia). The Service has received a draft proposal from Telstra, which is looking to connect the regions via extranet.

The national network will form the backbone for other things, according to Oldman. "Once we've got an infrastructure, we can run other national programs: a national HR system; a national finance system; a national intranet."

The IBA contract includes the licence for the software, implementation, customisation, support and maintenance. Implementation work will start in July and continue to June 2009. Once the new system is in place, the old Service records will be migrated, Oldman said.

(Credit: Royal Flying Doctor Service)

The Service chose IBA Health because it had the bells and whistles but would also speak to other internal and external systems including State hospital, pathology and X-ray records, according to RFDS national health program manager Robert Williams.

"There are various products out there. However, the IBA iSoft product had the most functionality and met NEHTA standards," he said.

NEHTA is responsible for unifying medical records across the nation.

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