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The final bugs have been ironed out of a central North Island electronic system for ordering lab tests, and rollout has already started across four DHBs.
Medlab Central’s laboratory e-orders system streamlines diagnostic lab test ordering and is being made available at MidCentral, Wairarapa, Tairawhiti and Whanganui DHBs.
According to Medlab Central managing pathologist Bruce Lockett, the system was first trialled in Palmerston North two years ago and the final bugs were ironed out last November, making it ready for GPs to adopt.
Paper-based test ordering comes with a host of problems for labs and for patients, including data entry errors, illegible handwritten order forms, poor auditing, confusion over patient details, and data duplication, Dr Lockett says.
“Labs like to get it right,” he says, and when GPs order tests electronically “the orders are perfect”.
Web-based electronic ordering was already available to GPs in the region via Sysmex’s Eclair Orders system. But the online system required GPs to log on and re-enter patient details, extra steps busy doctors were generally unwilling to take, a Sysmex eOrders system case study says.
So, Medlab Central decided the best way to encourage electronic ordering was by integrating the Eclair module with practice management systems. The interface means GPs can seamlessly access the Eclair module directly through their Medtech32 or Houston PMS.
Electronic ordering streamlines lab testing because orders are correct, patient details complete, and it saves on unnecessary duplication, Dr Lockett says.
Digitalisation also makes it is easier to keep track of whether a patient has turned up for a test or not and GPs can view patient test results and results histories.
Palmerston North GP and clinical director at The Palms Wayne Hayter was one of the first GPs to trial the interface. He is generally positive about the system, although he finds it a bit slow.
The Palms is a community accident and medical centre so being able to view test results even if a patient is enrolled elsewhere is very useful, Dr Hayter says. He confirms the number of errors is reduced through e-orders.
“Patient details are matched by what we have on our database,” he says. Dr Hayter appreciates that patients still receive a printed form with special instructions, such as if fasting is required prior to specimen collection.
Also, the system is customisable so it can include special protocols around following up results, he says.
Every time a test is ordered the system “creates a task” which alerts the GP when it is time to follow up on the test’s progress or results. Any problems with the system get a quick response, within an hour or two of phoning, Dr Hayter says.
Dr Lockett says the integrated Eclair system is very secure and completely auditable. It is easy to track who looks at a patient’s record so we can keep an eye on things if someone like Jonah Lomu turns up in town, he jokes.
“Overall I think it’s a useful addition,” Dr Hayter says.
The Eclair Orders interface is available to GPs within the four DHBs for free.