Each year, up to 230,000 hospitalisations are attributed to medication misadventure, says Medicines Australia.Each year, up to 230,000 hospitalisations are attributed to medication misadventure, says Medicines Australia. Photo: Michel O’Sullivan

A life-saving and cost-saving technology that could prevent the misprescribing and overprescribing of medications in hospitals around the world was developed right here in the ACT.

MedChart, an electronic medication management system, will replace paper prescriptions and medication records across ACT health facilities over the next two years.

Its development was based on the clinical experience of Canberra physicians Dr Dennis Armstrong and Dr John Ainge, alongside Jon Glanville and Tony Firth.

“The increase in the reporting of adverse drug events indicated to us there was a need to develop a software solution that reflected Australian hospital workflows and processes and that used Australian drug information,” Mr Firth said.

“From a dollar perspective, the cost of adverse drug events can be in the millions of dollars annually. From a patient perspective, [it] can result in temporary and permanent harm, and even death, with wider implications on family and community.”

The system works by allowing doctors, nurses and pharmacists to simultaneously view a patient’s electronic chart, no matter where they are located.

The chart is accessible at the patient’s bedside via a workstation on wheels with wireless network, on a mobile device, or at the nurses’ station or a doctor’s office on a desktop or mobile device.

“It eliminates the lost or misplaced paper chart, allowing instant access to critical patient information, and ensures the right dose at the time for the best care outcomes,” Mr Firth said.

MedChart now operates in 15 hospitals and 58 community healthcare facilities in Australia.

It is also live in eight UK hospital trusts and at more than 2000 hospital beds in New Zealand.

A recent study showed wards using the system reduced prescribing errors by 57 per cent, and serious medication errors by 44 per cent.

Another study, based on its implementation at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, showed the system could save up to $100,000 a year in a 30-bed ward.

“If extrapolated over the whole hospital, it would see savings of an estimated $2.5 million a year,” Mr Firth said.

The system also includes automated drug-to-drug allergy checking and links to published medicines reference information, local medication policies and rules.

“Like in many other industries healthcare will be able to [realise] a number of advantages from cloud-based computing,” Mr Firth said.

“In the healthcare sector, where users are often not at a facility, being able to connect to an application such as MedChart from virtually anywhere with connectivity will enable clinical decisions to be made based on real-time, up-to-date information.”

Meanwhile, the Australian pharmaceutical research industry’s peak body is pushing for patients’ medication records to become a mandatory inclusion in the federal government’s proposed eHealth profiles.

Medicines Australia made the submission to a Senate inquiry into the eHealth legislation, which seeks to replace existing laws governing personally controlled electronic health systems and introduce a new online, opt-out health profile for every Australian.