In 2013, Christchurch Hospital introduced new software called ScOPe, originally designed to replace paperwork for surgical staff.
Surgeon Saxon Connor says that over the past five years Canterbury DHB staff have worked with the developers to tailor the software to create a better system for patients and staff.
Staff use ScOPe to manage patient flow, update and observe their information in surgical theatres, and record operation notes.
Improved patient flow means patients aren't prepped for surgery prematurely and that the post-op team and family are in the recovery area at just the right time. All these efficiencies together ensure as little theatre downtime as possible and less time spent waiting by patients and staff.
Surgeons also use ScOPe to check on long-term outcomes, which Saxon says used to take hours of registrars' time to look up manually.
"We've got real-time visibility over what's happening in the theatre block," he says.
Nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons previously filled out a series of paper forms, which were often incomplete or illegible.
The forms were used to create waiting lists several pages long, which surgeons had to hunt down and print out.
"Of course, as soon as I did another clinic, that list was out of date," Saxon says.
If surgeons made extra time on their daily list, they would call and ask administration to book in more patients.
"There was no way of ranking patients or working out who should be next, it was just kind of this random process, so it wasn't particularly fair or streamlined."
The digital forms in ScOPe are pared back to essential questions surgeons need to answer; they are quick to fill out and always legible.
ScOPe also gathers information about surgeons, and is better at predicting how long certain procedures will take.
"Surgeons are always optimistic and say it'll take an hour when it takes three," Saxon says.
The information creates a more accurate waiting list for each surgeon, and allows them to control it themselves. Surgeons can see which patients have been waiting the longest and book them in if space appears on the list.
They can even take patients from other surgeons' lists, with their permission.
"It's fair and transparent," Saxon says.
An operation note is now available for other staff to see before the patient hits recovery. Previously this was dictated, transcribed and published – a process which often took several days.
Clinical Nurse Specialist Kirsten Walsh says ScOPe lets nurses plan recovery beds and surgery preparation that depends on knowing accurately how long active surgeries are going to take.
Much of this information was difficult to get before ScOPe, and clinical staff would phone between wards and the surgical block to update each other - all taking up valuable time and increasing the likelihood of confusion.
"It has certainly reduced the number of phone calls back and forth," she says.
"Discussion around surgeries can happen a lot sooner because we can see our capacity, we can see our demand. It's all there on a large display screen and is updated regularly."
Canterbury DHB uses ScOPe as part of its focus on using technology to improve healthcare for patients and staff.
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