The Tasmanian government has recently released a four-year strategy to transform outpatient services across its public health system.
Tasmania’s Transforming Outpatient Services Strategy seeks to shorten wait times, improve communication, and modernise processes.
One focus of the strategy is ICT and virtual care capability under which a Digital Outpatient Management System and eReferral system will be delivered to “modernise and streamline service delivery processes.”
“They will help resolve current business process inefficiencies, improve communications channels between consumers, referring practitioners, clinicians, and clinic staff, and enable the implementation of new models of outpatient care,” the Tasmanian Department of Health said.
These projects will also enable easier communication with outpatient services; an option to update personal information electronically; an option to schedule appointments conveniently; and access to care via virtual care and telehealth. IT will also lead to increased administrative efficiency and less double handling.
“Information technology will play an important part in supporting the transformation of outpatient services. Our digital capability will be significantly uplifted by the introduction of a Digital Outpatient Management Service and eReferrals,” the Health department noted.
WHY IT MATTERS
Each year, the Tasmanian Health Service (THS) delivers around 600,000 occasions of health services across 46 different specialties. These include specialist diagnostic assessment, screening, and treatment; ongoing management of chronic and complex conditions; and pre and post-hospital care. Around 10% of these services are new appointments for people who are on an outpatient waitlist while the rest are for services that do not have a waitlist, like cancer services, and for the review and management of people who require ongoing or follow-up care.
By 2024, the state government expects the population of Tasmanians over the age of 70 to increase with the cohort aged 85 and above projected to rise by 85%, from around 12,600 in 2020 to about 23,000 over the next two decades. This demographic change is seen to impact future health service demand, particularly demand from people with long-term conditions.
The four-year strategy allows THS to respond to this projected increase in demand by delivering strategies that will build the capacity necessary for the future.
THE LARGER TREND
The release of the outpatient service transformation strategy follows the launch of the Tasmanian government’s Digital Health Transformation Program 2022-2023 earlier this year with help from consulting firm KPMG. The state government has also made a A$150 million ($100 million) investment 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 statewide. The system uses HealthLink SmartForms for primary care users with a hospital Referral Management System. It is currently adopted by all GPs using Best Practice and Medical Director Clinical, over 125 private specialists, and a growing number of allied health organisations. A wider rollout in Tasmania’s Northern region is set to begin next week, 22 November, while implementations in the North Western region outpatient services will begin early next year and in the Southern region in mid-2023.