HCF fleshes out data analytics with electronic patient records system

The new dental patient records system will give the healthcare insurance provider more granular data on its members for analytics purposes.

Healthcare insurer HCF has integrated its dental electronic patient records (EPR) system with its data analytics initiative in order to gain more insight into its customers' oral health.

HCF started exploring a new EPR system for its network of dental care centres five years ago, around the time that it kicked off a core IT systems upgrade. But after two false starts, the company called in Sydney-based software provider Centaur to roll out a Dental4Windows SQL system, hosted out of HCF's own datacentre.

The EPR system operates on the latest Citrix XenApp virtual environment, and the project was officially completed in mid-2012. HCF currently has around 94 dentists and 250 clinical staff across seven dental care centres, all of which have access to the system.

Patient records are now centrally stored in the new system, which allows dentists across all HFC dental centres to share the latest patient documents in digital form. Documents include X-ray, paper records scanned into the system, financial reports, and patient referral records.

Not only does this make it more convenient for customers who might seek treatment across multiple HCF dental centres, but the healthcare insurer can now also take the electronic data that is stored and run it through its business analytics systems. HCF is currently in the process of digitalising all of its existing paper-based dental records.

Last year, HCF signed a multimillion-dollar deal with IBM for its IT transformation project, with a focus on improving data analytics. Armed with new IBM analytics gear, HCF can now run a lot of its data analysis in real time.

HCF CIO Patrick Shearman told ZDNet that the new EPR product does link to the company's analytics system, as well as its payment and claims systems.

"Previously, we only had claims data on the dental side, but we have more granular data now, so we can link them to specific treatments and do some modelling around those," he said. "We can now take the data from the dental records and link that in to work out what our members are claiming for, for example.

"That provides a better insight into what is happening with the customer, which we couldn't do before, because it was all paper based."

This plays into HCF's goal to be more than just a healthcare insurance provider, but also a company that looks after the health of its members, according to Shearman.

"Our technology is always there to support these strategic initiatives," he said.

HCF is only doing analytics on internal data at this time.

Shearman said that he would be willing to contribute the records to the Federal government's Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) system, and the EPR system already has the ability to export its data. However, there currently isn't a dental portion within the PCEHR through which it can accept the data.

HCF has around 1.4 million members Australia wide, and 30 percent of them use the company for dental services.