Caring for the Nation's Defence Personnel
Client:Australian Department of Defence
- Need for rapid access to patient records to support field deployments throughout the world, particularly in crisis situations
- Comprehensive, web-based, military-specific records management system making patient records available anywhere, any time
- Health data is analysed efficiently with reports generated in minutes
- With centralised and securely available patient records, productivity is improved - in a combat situation, saving time is saving lives
Caring for the Nation’s Defence Personnel
The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has about 66,000 employees, some 1,600 of whom are deployed in 14 overseas operations. During training exercises and active duty, Army, Navy and Air Force personnel rotate around Australia and occasionally travel abroad for foreign postings. It’s a complex operation made more challenging by the DoD’s responsibility to provide servicemen and women with high-quality health care.
Far more than ordinary medical providers, the DoD needs rapid access to patient information (such as blood type, medical history, and allergies) that could be critical a crisis. In spite of this, until 2011, the DoD relied on paper medical records alongside an electronic system with limited capacity to support field deployments.
This arrangement created several challenges that impeded the DoD’s delivery of medical services. Firstly, paper medication management systems are notoriously inaccurate, with administrative errors accounting for the bulk of adverse events. Secondly, by relying on paper medical records, the DoD was unable to develop a single centralised database to collate primary care information and make it available globally. Finally, as a taxpayer-funded organisation, the DoD is expected to collect detailed information about expenses. However, its paper-based system often made generating financial data difficult.
The DoD began a tender process to identify a suitable partner for the transformation of its health information system. It selected CSC not only because it offered a customised military-specific solution, but also because the company has 30 years of experience as an Australian Defence Prime Systems integrator. Having worked with the department on a variety of internal projects, CSC was confident it could offer a comprehensive solution that would support the needs of Australia’s modernising defence force.
CSC started operating alongside three of its strategic partners: Egton Medical Information Systems (EMIS), Oracle and PwC Australia. Together, they developed a solution encompassing records management, systems integration, user training and ongoing system maintenance and support.
The DoD now relies on a web-based solution known as the Defence eHealth Information System. Notably, the eHealth Information System incorporates EMIS, a UK-based medical information system ‘written for doctors, by doctors’ and used in more than half of England’s general practice surgeries. The program centralises patient records, making them available anywhere, any time.
The eHealth Information System also uses Oracle’s Master Person Index, which enables medical personnel to quickly and accurately verify the identity of a patient or provider using a unique identifier. This prevents data from being duplicated across the systems and ensures that all medical defence personnel have access to the same information. The entire eHealth solution is underpinned by a Microsoft service-oriented architecture and is designed in accordance with National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) standards.
By replacing its paper-based system with the eHealth Information System, the DoD immediately achieved two things. First, the eHealth Information System makes patient records securely available to defence personnel wherever there is an internet connection. Second, it maintains the consistency of these records by allocating a unique number to each patient and ensuring that their medical history is described with standardised vocabulary.
Over time, the DoD has seen efficiency and productivity improve as medical workers spend less time interpreting (or searching for) paper records, and more time dedicated to direct patient care. “It’s impossible to overstate how time-critical our medical interventions can be,” says Major General Alexander. “In a combat situation, every second counts so, by saving time, the eHealth Information System is quite literally saving lives.”
In addition to centralising and securing data, the eHealth Information System enables the DoD to analyse it efficiently. With the CSC solution, it is now possible to generate financial reports about military medical services in minutes. The DoD can also map health-related trends and patterns, allowing it to identify areas of potential improvement. Importantly, the eHealth Information System represents one of the first comprehensive eHealth record projects undertaken by a major Australian institution. It showcases the ability of modern health information solutions to make the right information quickly available. “This implementation cements our position as one of the leading systems integrators in Australian health and defence,” says Seelan Nayagam, Managing Director of CSC Australia and New Zealand. “We see it as an inspiring example of the benefits available to other organisations that decide to move towards a safer, speedier and more secure digital future.”