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Telstra Health implements e-records at hospitals; retail exec resigns

Two new Perth hospitals have implemented Telstra Health's e-records, with the system to improve efficiency and data sharing in healthcare.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra Health has successfully implemented an enterprise electronic medical record (EMR) system at the two newest Australian hospitals, which will complement the government's My Health Record System and the hospitals' own administration system.

The e-health record system, announced on Wednesday, has been implemented at the new AU$360 million St John of God Midland Public Hospital as well as the private hospital on the same campus in Midland, Perth.

"We know the importance of integration and interoperability in the success of eHealth solutions," said Russel Duncan, managing director of Telstra Health's Emerging Systems.

"Patients' clinical data at the St John of God Midland Public and Private Hospitals will integrate seamlessly with the hospital's Patient Administration System, the national My Health Record system, and eventually the Western Australia Health Department, helping build a more connected health system and improve productivity and clinical care.

"Our product reflects existing work practices and is easy for staff to use, including tablet device compatibility."

St John of God Health Care group director of Corporate Services Kevin Taylor said the Telstra Health program would lead to data sharing with the state and federal government e-health initiatives to drive efficiency in the hospitals.

"The emerging solution will lead to efficiency and accountability, and will be a major system which will enable us to interconnect with the Western Australian government's health services through expedient data sharing," Taylor said.

"The emerging product delivers benefits for everyone involved in the hospital; patients, staff, and administrators. We get a great system from Telstra Health that is built for Australian conditions, makes it easier for staff to do their job, delivers enhanced clinical care and patient outcomes, and does it in a way that is affordable and sustainable."

One of the main benefits of using Telstra Health is the direct patient-to-doctor notification system, Taylor said, which also records all information about each patient to aid both treatment and prevention.

"A unique factor is the way we can easily notify general practitioners when one of their patients is admitted, when they are discharged, and deliver a secure discharge summary of what treatment and condition they have been seen for," he said.

"In addition to capturing data, the product generates useful outputs, tracking patient-centric information, such as allergies or the propensity for falls, which will ultimately assist patient care by raising alerts and signalling the need for preventative actions."

A similar e-health initiative being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Queensland hospitals has been so successful that the mortality rate has decreased.

The project uses a Patient Admission Prediction Tool to collect and analyse hospital data to forecast numbers of patients in emergency, and therefore predict how many staff members and resources will be required for the future.

"We've already shown very conclusive evidence of improved mortality through Queensland hospitals as a result of that data mining and feedback to them that enabled them to improve their processes," said Larry Marshall, CEO of CSIRO, at Telstra's 2015 Australian Digital Summit in Sydney in October.

"Many, many people are alive today as a result of those improvements."

Telstra has had a recent focus on supplying and encouraging advanced health solutions. In April, Telstra Health signed a deal to acquire telehealth service Anywhere Healthcare in order to provide access to more than 1,600 GPs and 26 specialists to those located in regional and remote areas.

The health arm of Telstra also acquired UK health analytics company Dr Foster in March. Telstra Health was itself launched in October 2014, with the express purpose of bringing telehealth services to those in remote areas.

"Healthcare at its core is about connectivity. It is about how you can get better information flows going between doctor, GP, specialist, the pharmacist," then-CEO David Thodey said at the time.

Telstra also recently signed a multimillion-dollar three-year contract to exclusively provide telco services to health insurance company Medibank Private.

In October, Telstra Health also acquired e-health management company EOS Technologies to be amalgamated as part of Telstra's HealthConnex business.

The Australian government's own e-health record system was switched on in 2012, and was given a further AU$485 million in funding in the 2015-16 Budget in May. At the same time, it was rebranded from the "personally controlled e-health record system" (PCEHR) to My Health Record.

The most recent funding injection will improve the billion-dollar system by updating it with various recommendations from GPs who have used the system in its current state.

According to Minister for Health Sussan Ley, less than one in 10 Australians have signed up for the service so far.

"In this modern world, where technology makes information sharing boundless, there's no excuse for Australia not to have a functioning national e-health system," Ley said.

"Doctors have indicated that they're much more likely to use the system if all their patients have a record. We also need full coverage if we're to cut down on inefficiencies created by not having one seamless records system, such as double ups with testing, prescriptions, and other procedures."

Ley said that a properly functioning national e-health system could save taxpayers up to AU$2.5 billion per year within a decade's time, with another AU$1.6 billion per year savings for the states.

A 2013 review of the system by former Minister for Health Peter Dutton had suggested that the system be made opt-out in order to improve signup numbers. In September this year, the government responded by introducing legislation that will see e-health accounts automatically assigned to patients. The government will begin trialling these opt-out accounts, with a nationwide rollout planned should the trials be successful.

Telstra retail exec resigns

Telstra has also announced that Retail group executive Karsten Wildberger has resigned for "personal reasons", returning to his home country Germany.

Wildberger, who was promoted from group managing director of Consumer and acting group managing director of Products to the AU$18 billion portfolio of group executive of Retail in October, made significant contributions to the company during his three years there, said Telstra CEO Andrew Penn.

"Karsten is a great executive. We will be disappointed to see him go, but understand his personal reasons. Karsten brings great energy and passion to our business and has significant global experience," Penn said on Friday.

Wildberger, who previously served as executive vice president of Finance, Sales, and Marketing for Deutsche Telekom in the UK and Germany, as well as being CFO and interim CEO of Vodafone in Romania, will be taking an executive role outside of the telco industry upon his return to Germany, Telstra said.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Telstra and in Australia, and am excited by the company's prospects," Wildberger said.

"I was privileged to be selected by Andy Penn to lead the retail team. I am grateful to this incredible company, its people and its customers for three years of achievement and inspiration."

Telstra has yet to appoint a replacement.

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