Tasmania transforms outpatient services with online booking and eReferral system

The Tasmanian government recently released a four-year strategy to transform outpatient services in its public health system.

Tasmania Transforming Ambulatory Services Strategy aims to reduce wait times, improve communication and modernize processes.

One of the goals of the strategy is ICT and virtual care capability under which a digital outpatient management system and electronic referral system will be provided to “modernize and streamline service delivery processes”.

“They will help address current inefficiencies in business processes, improve communication channels between consumers, referring practitioners, clinicians and clinic staff, and enable the implementation of new models of ambulatory care,” said said the Tasmanian Department of Health.

These projects will also facilitate communication with outpatient services; an option to update personal information electronically; an option to easily schedule appointments; and access to care through virtual care and telehealth. IT will also lead to increased administrative efficiency and less double manipulation.

“Information technology will play an important role in supporting the transformation of outpatient services. Our digital capability will be significantly enhanced with the introduction of an outpatient digital management service and eReferrals,” noted the Department of health.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

Each year, the Tasmanian Health Service (THS) provides approximately 600,000 health service opportunities across 46 different specialties. These include diagnostic assessment, screening and treatment by specialists; ongoing management of chronic and complex conditions; and pre- and post-hospital care. About 10% of these services are new appointments for people who are on an outpatient waiting list, while the rest are for services that do not have a waiting list, such as cancer services, and for the examination and management of individuals who require ongoing or follow-up care. .

By 2024, the state government expects the population of Tasmanians over the age of 70 to grow, with the 85+ cohort expected to grow by 85% from around 12,600 in 2020 to about 23,000 over the next two decades. This demographic change seems to have an impact on the future demand for health services, in particular the demand for people with long-term illnesses.

The four-year strategy enables THS to meet this expected increase in demand by proposing strategies that will build the capacity needed for the future.

THE GREAT TREND

Ambulatory Services Transformation Strategy release follows Tasmanian Government launch 2022-2023 Digital Health Transformation Program earlier this year with the help of a consulting firm KPMG. The state government has also invested A$150 million ($100 million) over four years to upgrade its digital health infrastructure.

Meanwhile, since 2019, the Tasmanian Department of Health and Primary Health Tasmania have been working to set up and roll out the eReferral system across the state. The system uses HealthLink SmartForms for primary care users with a hospital referral management system. It is currently adopted by all general practitioners using best practice and the medical director, over 125 private specialists and a growing number of paramedical organisations. A wider roll-out in Tasmania’s Northern Region is set to begin next week, November 22, while implementations in the Northwest Region’s outpatient services will begin early next year and in the Southern Region at the mid-2023.

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