Health Minister Tony Ryall with Dr Andrew Bowers. Health Minister Tony Ryall with Dr Andrew Bowers. CREDIT: Tony Ryall

Southern DHB leads electronic prescribing

Wednesday 6 June 2012, 5:09PM
By Tony Ryall

In a New Zealand first, an electronic prescribing pilot launched in Dunedin Hospital in 2010 is being rolled out to all Southern DHB hospitals and will be introduced into hospitals throughout the country.

Health Minister Tony Ryall visited Dunedin Hospital today to talk with the team of pharmacists, doctors and IT staff that spearheaded the successful initiative, and see the programme first-hand.

“This is a great example of clinical leadership making a difference for patients. It means fewer mistakes and safer hospitals", said Mr Ryall.

"The Dunedin pilot saw a reduction in medicines errors of over 98% and in some areas such as legibility all errors have been completely removed. Imagine what this will mean when it is rolled out across New Zealand.

The scheme, piloted in two wards in Dunedin Hospital, allowed doctors to prescribe medication electronically from specially designed software. This eliminated the risk of most common errors such as patient identification and illegible drug names.

Dr Andrew Bowers, medical director IT for Southern DHB and a member of the team behind introducing electronic prescriptions, is impressed at how much electronic prescribing has improved patient safety by reducing medication errors.

“There are moves in every country to develop a fully electronic medical record because the evidence of benefit is so strong, and much of that benefit is around medicine management,” Dr Bowers said.

“New Zealand is in a very strong position to be the world leaders of electronic prescribing. There is great interest from Australia and the UK in what we are doing and how we are doing it.

“Southern DHB will be supporting the introduction of e-prescribing into other South Island hospitals. We are developing a regional medication safety group, which represents a level of collaboration between DHBs that we have not seen before.”

“This will be the first time an electronic system will be introduced that will eventually be same in all public hospitals across the country.

The rollout across New Zealand will be closely monitored. The University of Otago and Auckland University have been funded by the Health Quality and Safety Commission to independently look at quality improvement, to assess and provide advice on the process.