[LINK] Hospital use of SMS for Appointment Reminders

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Thu Aug 19 09:22:09 AEST 2010

This week the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, proposed online 
medical consultations  for patients in remote areas 
But there is a lack of communication between medical personnel in the 
Australian capital city, Canberra, only a few kilometres (or in some 
cases tens of metres) apart. ICT does not need to be that complicated to 
be of value in improving the quality and efficiency of medical services. 
Technologies such as SMS and the web can be used in the city as well as 
the regions.

One example is that Calvary Hospital in Canberra uses SMS messages to 
remind patients of appointments. The message doesn't give any details of 
the appointment, apart from the day. But it has a phone number to call 
with questions. This is enough and avoids issues of privacy and accuracy 
of data.

Also secure web pages might be used to provide access to medical 
records. Recently my GP referred me for examination be a specialist. To 
do this the GP typed a letter on their computer, pressed some buttons to 
attach my medical history, printed it out, put it in an envelope and 
handed it to me. I then carried this letter to the specialist's office, 
where their staff typed the details back into another computer system. 
The specialist asked me about treatment which I received at Canberra 
Hospital, which is located across the road from their office, on the 
same medical campus 
Apparently they could not get the records from the hospital computer and 
so had to ask me my recollections. This all took a considerable amount 
of time (time which judging by the specialist's frantic manner was not 
something they had a lot of).

The specialist then dictated a letter (by speaking into a audio 
recorder) to be sent to the hospital across the road requesting further 
tests. Presumably the hospital staff then had to transcribe the details, 
including my interpretation of their previous diagnosis, back into the 
hospital's computer system.

Canberra Hospital was too busy to conduct the tests, so this was passed 
on to Calvary Hospital, on the other side of Canberra. I assumed that 
the two public hospitals in Canberra, both funded by the same 
government, would have access to the same patient database, but 
apparently this is not the case. I was required to fill in another set 
of paper forms and tell another group of medical personnel my 
recollections of what treatment I had received and what diagnosis had 
been made. Also they did not have the letter from my GP, so I had to 
provide my medical history, as best I could remember it.

As with previous treatment in Canberra Hospital, the staff of Calvary 
Hospital appear well trained and dedicated to their work. But they seem 
to be wasting much of their valuable time trying to obtain and check 
information which should be available instantly from a properly designed 
medical information system.

While a fully integrated system would be desirable, this could take five 
to ten years to build 
Perhaps something as simple as authorised staff being able to access the 
other hospital's records using a secure web interface would be 
sufficient. This could to save Canberra taxpayers millions of dollars 
each year. It might also save some lives.

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Computer Science, The
Australian National University http://cs.anu.edu.au/courses/COMP7310/

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