NSW Health puts architecture under microscope

The NSW Department of Health is undertaking a sweeping review of IT architecture to meet interoperability requirements for a nationally connected system of electronic health records.

Admitting NSW has struggled for a decade to make any real progress towards a common set of standards to implement electronic patient records, Department of Health CIO Ralph Hanson described the government's plans as a connected vision.

Speaking at the health-e-nation conference in Sydney last week, Hanson said the focus is on providing a clear understanding of the components necessary to realize the connected vision.

"We have struggled to make real progress and we had to do something to address that," he said.

"We believe that we need to provide a framework with a sensibility in clinical systems to match the changes and needs of the systems over time so that we don't lock ourselves in and [that] we fit with the broader standards framework that is being developed.

"The big challenge is in implementation; we have got to learn from what is happening overseas. If we do not focus on supporting patient care and the flow of the patient through the healthcare system then we have failed."

Hanson said the benefits IT would deliver cannot be delivered without change, which will not be sustained unless there are obvious benefits to consumers.

"If we don't make that connection then it is going to be a hard journey for us all," he added.

In the meantime, Hanson said NSW Health will continue to monitor what is happening with the UK-based National Health Service.

Roy Lilley, consultant and health policy analyst with the UK National Health Service, said a political imperative is needed to push IT reform through the health sector. The UK is fortunate enough to have a prime minister with an interest in technology and the benefits of change, he added.

"God knows what happens if it doesn't work," Lilley said.