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Enhancing Remote Patient Care and Access

Image Credits: RFDS, Press Release
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The Flying Doctor has entered a new era of healthcare accessibility with the launch of the RFDS Electronic Health Record (EHR), a system aimed at enhancing patient care. Developed by the RFDS, this Electronic Health Record is designed to seamlessly integrate with healthcare systems across all Australian states and territories, enabling doctors, nurses, and paramedics to share critical medical information in real-time, whether the patient is in the air or on the ground.

From the convenience of a laptop or mobile device, RFDS crews can now digitally record a patient’s vital health statistics during flight and instantly share this data with the receiving medical team on the ground. This capability allows life-saving decisions to be made even before the aircraft touches down.

One crucial aspect of the EHR system is its ability to function offline, making it exceptionally valuable for emergency healthcare situations in remote locations such as the Australian outback or high above sea level.

Dr Mardi Steere, the Clinical Lead for RFDS EHR, emphasised that this new technology serves as an “extra pair of hands” for healthcare providers, especially when they are the sole caregivers in the back of an aircraft. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) includes a live dashboard that presents real-time trends and integrates safety alerts pertaining to allergies and the early detection of deteriorating health conditions.

Additionally, it offers guidelines concerning patient risk factors and medication dosages. Before the adoption of the EHR system, RFDS crews were required to manually record this extensive information on paper, a process that consumed considerable time and was susceptible to errors. Consequently, the introduction of the EHR has allowed RFDS crews to allocate more of their valuable time to patient care, thereby enhancing the quality of healthcare services provided by the RFDS.

Ryan Klose, the Digital Lead for RFDS EHR, discusses how this technology was developed using a world-class management platform provided by an American multinational computer technology company. The team initially engaged a leading technology partner known for its data expertise, which has been successfully applied in sectors such as defence, banking, and elite sports.

The innovative application of this technology in rural healthcare settings is considered groundbreaking. This approach can be likened to the swift decision-making process observed in motor-racing teams, combined with the multi-layered data protection measures akin to those found in everyday ATM transactions.

This approach is then tailored to meet the demands of medical emergency scenarios, whether it’s in the confines of an aircraft or within the confines of a road ambulance. The primary objective remains consistent: to provide precise and vital information while upholding the highest standards of data privacy and security.

The RFDS has assembled a team of experts who truly understand the complexities of working in remote environments. In this project, data specialists collaborated closely with healthcare professionals to create a solution tailored to the outback setting and the patients they serve.

The RFDS is currently implementing a staged rollout of the EHR system. South Australia, the Northern Territory, and New South Wales have already gone live with the system, while Queensland is set to adopt it in the coming weeks.

The EHR project received initial funding from the generous support of an Australian billionaire mining magnate and businesswoman and her Rinehart Medical Foundation. Their contribution has played a pivotal role in making this innovative healthcare solution a reality.

The RFDS’s introduction of the Electronic Health Record represents a significant leap forward in providing timely and efficient healthcare, especially in remote and challenging environments. With real-time data sharing, offline functionality, and a commitment to privacy and accuracy, this technology promises to enhance the quality of care delivered by the RFDS across Australia.

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