Healthcare | Technology

Managing complex pain in digital hospitals

13 Feb 2019, by Amy Sarcevic

Pain management in clinical settings is highly complex, and the digitisation of workflows in some Queensland Health hospitals – although popular across the board – has added an extra layer of complexity, according to Pharmacist IT Consultant, Deborah Boland.

“When assessing pain and administering analgesia there are many variables to consider and criteria to satisfy”, Ms. Boland explained, ahead of the eMedications Management Conference.

“Thanks to decades of medical wisdom and heuristic safety development, paper-based workflows have catered to this complexity”.

In the new ieMR (integrated electronic medical record) digital platform, however, these established, intricate processes have not yet been captured to the same degree.

“When we landed in the digital forum, we were given a single build from which to try and accomplish our varying clinical goals”, said Deborah.

“A single platform, a single catalogue of medications and single functionality in terms of how we order medications.

“We have since reconfigured some design elements of the system several times to suit the varying needs of pain management across the spectrum of life.

“As you can imagine, throughout the range of patients and health conditions, the use of opioids, epidurals and regionals is very different”, Deborah continued.

“Translating complex pain management processes into this digital build is a significant challenge that we are now tackling”.

The initial configurations of Queensland Health’s digital forum have so far been highly successful in achieving its overarching goal of greater operational efficiency.

To date, nine Queensland Health hospitals have undergone a pervasive digital transformation (as part of the Digital Health Program) and many more are earmarked for renewal as the scheme is rolled out across the state.

James Grant is also due to address the Summit and told us that the program has been well-received by staff and patients alike:

“Although we are just a few years into the program, much of the day to day clinical work seems streamlined and less chaotic. It’s akin to the arrival of mobile phones or PCs. Even those who showed initial technophobic resistance now own one and can’t imagine life without one”, he said.

“Prior to the digitisation, pharmacists would have to spend considerable time re-entering patient identifiers into many systems; correcting PBS quantities on discharge prescriptions; numbering and flicking between charts in each review; copying admission notes onto medication admission plans from medical charts; finding patient charts in order to process a discharge; and finding and adhering patient ID stickers to progress notes and NIMCs missing them.

“Now, thanks to the digitisation, only a couple of these tasks even remain and they can be done faster than before”, he added.

Presenting at the eMedications Management Conference, Deborah Boland will discuss how her team plans to refine the digital systems further and ensure they have the same levels of finesse that are implicit in the former paper-based system.

You may download the full agenda here.

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