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Thu 21 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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A note of caution

In healthcare, integrated IT solutions are known as healthcare information systems and the benefits are potentially huge.

Integrated IT systems have long been the objective of the corporate world. According to the theory, you implement a single piece of software across an entire organisation, write links to the databases where company information is stored and are able to gain an immediate and complete view of any aspect of company business.

In the healthcare setting, such integrated solutions are known as healthcare information systems and the benefits of them are potentially huge. A physician, for example, could view every single piece of information related to a patient from within a single screen on a PC.

Information need not only be text-based; digitised versions of patient scans could also be extracted from databases and viewed on a monitor. The end goal is to have more knowledgeable hospital staff who can deliver better outcomes to patients

A number of regional hospitals are implementing or planning to implement integrated healthcare information systems. This is undoubtedly a good thing, as long as the implementations are done properly. The corporate world is full of stories of integrated software rollouts that went wrong, and achieved few or none of their original objectives.

For big software projects to succeed, IT departments need to be fully prepared. The goals of a project must be strictly defined and understood by everyone on the implementation team, there needs to be endless testing of the new platform and the old software systems should be retained while the new one is rolled out in phases.

Money should also be invested in consultants with experience of big software projects, who can ensure the rollout goes according to plan. If these principles are adhered to, healthcare information systems should be a massive step forward for patient care rather than costly failures that fail to achieve the original project objectives.

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