South Australia’s Health Information Exchange Supports Rapid Preparation for the Second Wave

Medical WorkerWhether they suffered great losses in the COVID-19 pandemic or escaped the worst of its wrath, communities around the world are bracing for a second wave. It’s the top concern for nearly every health system leader and public health official: How will they manage another outbreak, which may well dwarf the first?

In Australia, a technology integration performed at lightning speed provided part of the answer.

In just three weeks, the South Australian Department of Health and Wellbeing (SA Health) interfaced its disease surveillance system to a new workflow system, arming SA Health with the information it needs to care for the state’s 1.8 million residents should a second wave strike.

“If it happens, we can ramp up very quickly,” says Darren McGlade, information manager for SA Health. “If we have an infected cruise ship come in with thousands of passengers, the new system can be used to rapidly boost contact tracing and end-to-end management for all the cases.”

But how?

IF WE HAVE AN INFECTED CRUISE SHIP COME IN WITH THOUSANDS OF PASSENGERS, THE NEW SYSTEM CAN BE USED TO RAPIDLY BOOST CONTACT TRACING AND END-TO-END MANAGEMENT FOR ALL THE CASES.The project interfaced SA Health’s Notifiable Infectious Disease Surveillance (NIDS) system with a new workflow system through the department’s health information exchange, which runs on InterSystems interoperability technology. The HIE, or Health Information Broker, normalizes, shares, and performs integrity checks on data from across South Australia while also providing a rapid development environment to connect new systems and execute improvements.

Together, these technologies offered the perfect mix for SA Health to get critical COVID-19 data to healthcare organizations, clinicians, and state officials—when and where they need it.

The task wasn’t that simple, though.

First, COVID-19 and staff changes left SA Health with a lot of work and few people to get it done before the second wave. Then there were the technology systems themselves. Built years earlier, NIDS didn’t support a modern RESTful API, but the new workflow technology did. The challenge lied in ensuring the systems could communicate, in real time, to successfully aid public health and case management efforts.

SA Health contacted its longtime partner InterSystems, and weeks and several late nights later, the integration was complete.

Now, as a result, SA Health has the technology to follow the patient journey from the moment the patient receives a positive COVID-19 result to discharge from the hospital. And South Australians can feel more confident that technology innovation is enabling the state to prepare for a potential second wave.


This story originally appeared the HealthShare Connections News Flash No.5 – January 27, 2021

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