An aged care facility in southern NSW is reaping the benefits of digital health after connecting all of its residents to the national e-health system.
Amaroo Aged Care in Berrigan – the first town in Australia where all key healthcare providers are connected and using the My Health Record – assisted signing up all 30 of its residents earlier this year.
The local general practice, pharmacy and hospital are also connected to the system as is more than half of the town’s population of around 950, all ahead of the transition to an opt-out e-health system slated to hit the town by the end of this year.
Amaroo Aged Care general manager Andrea O’Neill said reassurance that information was up to date was among benefits already gained since achieving full My Health Record connectivity last month.
“It assists if our residents have to go to the hospital that their information is already loaded and the hospital has access to that,” Ms O’Neill told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“Vice versa when we have someone come back, the discharge information is already there.”
During a health emergency, paperwork is the last thing nursing and care staff want to be doing, she said.
“Now you can just press a button and all information is there and up to date.”
Residents’ advance care directives have also been added to their e-health records as part of the initiative, which Ms O’Neill said similarly provided more effective and timely access to key information.
Getting a community connected to the My Health Record system has been a collaborative effort by the town’s healthcare providers and the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN).
Ms O’Neill said the PHN did “an outstanding job in bringing the groups together and coordinating” stakeholders but that the push from the general practice and the local doctor were pivotal to the rest joining in.
Connecting Amaroo and its residents also involved “fantastic” support from the facility’s clinical software vendor LeeCare Solutions, she said.
The process began with the MPHN digital health team meeting with Amaroo management to show the benefits of the My Health Record and involved information sessions with Amaroo staff and residents.
Amaroo staff were trained to be My Health Record champions who then followed up with residents to answer questions. Once residents gave their approval to have a My Health Record, staff at the Berrigan Medical Practice helped to register them.
The practice then updated the records with shared health summaries, relevant event summaries and advance care plans.
Melissa Neal, MPHN acting CEO, said the small regional community is leading the way in demonstrating how the My Health record can work in communities.
“First and foremost having the strong local relationships facilitated that process and in particular the relationaships between the general practice and the aged care facility,” Ms Neal told AAA.
The role of the PHN, which is to work with communities and individuals to help them understand the benefits of the system, was also important in demonstrating what connecting means for residents, the staff caring for them and the other healthcare professionals delivering services to that facility, she said.
Those involved encouraged other communities and aged care providers to replicate what Berrigan has done.
“Connecting providers and having those strong relationships is key,” said Ms Neal.
“A huge benefit for an aged care facility is having a full picture of that individual particularly for new residents.”
Ms O’Neill said while there were challenges, such as with technical issues or residents and staff engagement, they were not insurmountable.
“There are always challenges but you need to look at them as issues that can be solved,” she said. “This partnership has shown that by working together you get a better outcome for the resident.”
As at 11 March, 185 residential aged care services were connected to the My Health Record, a spokesperson for the Digital Health Agency told AAA.
It is not known if any other facility has all of its residents connected as the agency does not track this information, he said.
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