Pictured above: Oanh Nguyen, Project Manager Digital Health Cancer Services and Helen Sinnott, Director of Nursing and Midwifery Informatics, are involved in a major project currently underway at Western Health that is affecting considerable change to the way nurses are delivering safe and effective patient care.
Every year, International Nurses Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect and celebrate the exceptional role nurses play in delivering best care to our patients at Western Health. The theme for this year's International Nurses Day is A Vision for Future Healthcare, focusing on the changes to and innovations in nursing and how this will ultimately shape the future of healthcare.
No change has been as significant as the integration of technology into professional nursing practice. In recent years, the move to electronic medical records (EMR) has brought considerable change to the way nurses deliver safe and effective patient care.
In December 2018, Western Health delivered stage one of its EMR rollout across the organisation. A major deliverable in Western Health's Digital Health Strategy, the primary driver behind the project is improving patient care through the meaningful collection and use of clinical data.
"The key to effective care, or intervention, is information," says Helen Sinnott, Director of Nursing and Midwifery Informatics at Western Health. "It's therefore crucial that the information collected during patient treatment should enhance that care, making it more efficient, particularly for nurses, to make decisions at the point of care. The EMR does that."
The move away from traditional paper-based records to an EMR has provided nurses with accurate and real-time information about a patient at their point of care. Integrating seamlessly with other systems, the EMR provides a centralised point for patient information. Clinical notes, test results, diagnoses and treatments are recorded and accessed simultaneously by all those involved in a patient's care. In the past, nurses would spend a significant amount of time trying to gather all these disparate pieces of information to implement a patient centred care plan.
"The EMR provides the 'one source of truth' about a patient," says Helen. "Besides improving efficiency, the EMR also reduces the risk of error as the system includes in-built prompts and alerts to help nurses and other clinicians deliver the right care, at the right time."
Stage one of the Western Health EMR project involved implementing four key modules being inpatient clinical notes, medication and pathology prescribing administration, along with the core support system.
Stage two commenced in February 2021 and will be delivered over the next five years, building on this success of stage one to deliver a complete and integrated EMR solution. Features will include a patient portal to provide patients with easier access to their health information, and the ability for clinical staff to dictate straight into the EMR.
The success of delivering a project of this scale involves user involvement across all stages of the project, and all areas of the organisation. As the Director of Nursing and Midwifery Informatics, Helen works closely with clinical nurses, nurse executives, and departmental managers to design, develop, test, implement, and optimise EMR solutions for the workplace.
"Nurses are not only involved in the Western Health EMR project; they lead it," says Helen. "They are involved in all stages of the project – from the design and the building of it through to testing, education and final implementation."
"Through the Nursing and Midwifery EMR optimisation Group, representatives play a significant role in providing feedback on functionality, updates, training and ongoing support, with many nurses taking on 'Super User' roles across the organisation."
The EMR project has led to new career development opportunities, with several nurses taking on key project roles during stage two of the EMR rollout.
Oanh Nguyen is one of those nurses who has gone from being a Super User during stage one to project managing the implementation of the EMR in oncology in stage two.
"As the former Nurse Unit Manager for Ambulatory Cancer Services, it was important for me to promote a positive culture of engagement amongst my staff which is why I put my hand up to be a Super User for stage one of the Western Health EMR project," says Oanh.
"When the opportunity came to take on the project manager role for the oncology module, it really came down to the maths for me. As a nurse you can affect change at the local area – for those patients in your immediate care. Transitioning into the EMR team has allowed me to affect change at the organisational level which will benefit thousands of patients coming to Western Health."
Engaging nurses like Oanh in the rollout of the EMR project, who have the experience and clinical knowledge to make effective and meaningful change, is contributing to a vision of future healthcare for Melbourne's west.