Research Demonstrates the Importance of Accurate Electronic Records for Improving Patient Safety

IMS MAXIMSBrenda Courtney, a former nurse and Fellow with the HRB Centre for Primary Care Research with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, received the IMS MAXIMS sponsored prize for delivering the best paper at the Healthcare Informatics Society of Ireland (HISI) annual conference and scientific symposium. Her paper 'An investigation into the use of HL7 clinical document architecture as a standard for discharge summaries in Ireland' proves how straightforward changes to Ireland's healthcare IT could significantly improve patient safety across the country.

The research highlighted the current disparate nature of computer systems used by many hospitals and primary care providers. It details how the lack of semantic interoperability prevents the sharing of information electronically, including electronic discharge summaries, resulting in primary care staff having to copy data across to their own computer systems. The paper's findings have therefore focused on showing how GPs could have immediate access to an accurate electronic record explaining the condition, care and medication of any of their patients who are discharged from hospital.

Brenda Courtney said: "Research has shown that medication transcription errors can result in a significant risk to patient safety, a practice which occurs in GP practices. This problem can be solved through the introduction of a national set of standards to ensure that computer systems in the primary and acute sectors can share and interpret information electronically.

"This would enable GPs to instantly share accurate information on discharged patients, including what they have been prescribed and why. This is particularly important for patients with multimorbidity who require a range of medication. National standards for electronic document exchange would radically improve patient safety and save a great deal of time on administration."

Years spent working in Irish hospitals means that Brenda looks at IT from the perspective of the clinician, and what they need to best-serve patients.

"As a nurse I learned to deal with things in very practical ways. I don't think about IT in terms of what's cool, but in terms of what is going to work for the users. And that's why it is so important that hospitals and GPs can share patient records as easily as possible," she said.

Brenda Courtney's paper was drawn from the research for her master's degree at Trinity College Dublin. It recommends that Ireland adopts the internationally-recognised HL7 v3.0 Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) standard for exchanging electronic discharge summaries in Ireland. At present many organisations are using the earlier HL7 v2.0 standard.

"The approach I am recommending is similar to what happens in other countries. It's tried and tested, easy to implement. It wouldn't involve major changes to our computer network, but would have a very positive effect," said Courtney.

As a leading Irish healthcare IT company IMS MAXIMS is dedicated to encouraging fresh ideas which can achieve practical benefits for patients and clinicians.

Shane Tickell, IMS MAXIMS CEO, said: "Brenda's paper was very well received, and excellently researched. It reflects her deep interest in using IT to bring practical benefits for patients, and those working on the frontline of care. We are absolutely committed to encouraging new thinking on the way ahead for healthcare providers and this award is valuable because it encourages vigorous debate."

The HISI conference was held on the 16th and 17th of November in the Stillorgan Park Hotel, Dublin. It featured a variety of prominent speakers from the Irish and UK healthcare and IT sectors. Conference papers were delivered on a multitude of subjects showing how IT can improve health services.

About Brenda Courtney
A former nurse, Brenda Courtney was a specialist in paediatric and general nursing. She first became involved with computer projects while working as a theatre nurse at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. A newfound fascination with IT resulted in her going to study computer applications in DCU where she qualified in 2001 with a first class honours degree.

About HISI
The Healthcare Informatics Society of Ireland exists to: develop and disseminate knowledge of the use of informatics in healthcare promote research and education in healthcare informatics participate internationally with bodies of similar interests.

The HISI annual conference is recognised for providing a significant contribution to the development and understanding of information and its associated technologies in the delivery of healthcare. It is the focal point for those interested in healthcare informatics in Ireland to network with their peers and learn about the latest developments in healthcare ICT.

About IMS MAXIMS
IMS MAXIMS is the company behind the widely-used MAXIMS clinical PAS. It is a specialist in developing clinical and administrative software solutions and currently supports more than 150 organisations, 1.9 million patient records in Ireland and 8 million patient records in the UK, as well as 10,000 users of IMS MAXIMS products.

About the MAXIMS clinical PAS
MAXIMS gives clinicians the applications they need to provide the best possible patient care, and allows provider organisations to manage their patient administration with ease and efficiency. Rival products often tend to be administrative systems with clinical software added on. MAXIMS is equally focused on the needs of clinicians and provider organisations - which we believe is the way to guarantee the best patient outcomes with optimum efficiency.

MAXIMS is at the heart of the clinical and administrative life of everything from large UK and Irish hospitals, to small specialist independent clinics. It gives patient data to clinicians in exactly the format they need, and allows it to be shared with colleagues and updated in real-time. MAXIMS suits any clinical specialism and is excellent for order communications and reporting. Medical and administrative records can be kept fully up to date, with the minimum of effort. MAXIMS is web-based so there is no need to install software on computers or invest in expensive extra hardware.

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