Doctors are using personal messaging apps like WhatsApp to share patient information in some Australian hospitals because communications technology is so out of date.

While many hospitals use computers for patient data, communications technology has often lagged behind, forcing doctors and technicians to transfer patient information on their personal phones rather than by fax or hand.

Hospitals have instead focused their technological efforts on reducing paperwork or introducing online medication ordering.

Unfortunately this has led to a mess of information management.

Healthcare software maker Alcidion (ASX:ALC) is trying to fix the problem with its ‘Miya’ electronic medical record (EMR) software for emergency departments, inpatient and outpatient services.

“Miya gathers data from health IT systems, makes it consistent (this is harder than it sounds) and runs algorithms to detect risk, predict problems before they occur and monitor patient care,” says Alcidion Chief Medical Officer Malcolm Pradhan.

What does it do?

Alcidion’s Miya system is ahead of the curve on “interoperability” which allows it to monitor patient data in real-time and predict emerging or unhandled risks.

Interoperability was the buzzword at last month’s Health Informatics Conference in Brisbane, where hospital informaticians gathered to talk standards and safety.

Interoperability allows information to be sent and received between any system, regardless of vendor. It’s a big issue in health IT where competing suppliers make money by selling modular systems that only speak with their own kind.

Does it work?

The driving factor of interoperable EMRs is patient flow. Hospitals want digital systems that are easy to use, help clinicians make fast decisions and centralise patient information.

Since 2013 the CSIRO e-health research centre has published positive results from patient flow prediction modelling tools at peak admission times such as Schoolies on the Gold Coast and the winter flu season.

The aim was to optimise the progression of patients through hospitals and reduce frequency and number of readmissions.

Patient flow prediction has been shown to work, so it’s reasonable to expect healthcare facilities will want to give Miya a go.

What is the outlook for EMRs?

The Australian Digital Health Agency (AHDA) this month announced its strategy of allocating $374.2 million to the creation of electronic health records for every Australian by the end of 2018.

These records will be connected to the EMRs used by hospitals, and shared among health providers including GPs, pharmacists, specialists, diagnostic services and hospitals.

The undertaking is slated to be the world’s biggest corroboration of a single mobile health record per citizen. One of the main aims is to reduce medication error. (More people die from medication error than from road traffic accidents each year in Australia.)

A nationally-linked e-health record is not without its critics given the government’s history with the 2016 census and ongoing Centrelink debt issues.

This is something the entire industry will need to monitor.

Meanwhile, Alcidion is demonstrating the latest feature of its Miya system — access to outpatient services which will be crucial for clinicians in remote settings, as well as tele-health and mobile emergency applications.

Alcidion has agreements with Calvary Health Care, Private Hospital Group, NT Health, Tasmania’s Department of Health & Human Services as well as development partnerships with cardiovascular imaging data systems.

With distribution set for Australia and New Zealand, the company is aiming to take on the North American market in 2018.

Sharon Smith was a guest of the Health Informatics Conference 2017.