Plunket 'Book' to go high-tech

1 June 2010

Plunket nurses are to replace pen and paper with a new high-tech IT system that could enable parents to update a child’s file online.

The Well Child health organisation has just put out a tender for software for its PlunketPlus project, with the goal of piloting the new information system in the middle of next year.

Brenda Hynes, Plunket’s national clinical advisor and also the PlunketPlus project leader, said the project was very much service-lead.

“It’s a tool to help practice and not a tool to run practice – that’s something we’re very strong on.”

She said at the moment Plunket was old pen and paper technology, with parents often thinking PlunketLine nurses could access their child’s file, not realising it was tucked away in a filing cabinet.

But an advantage of being slow to go electronic was that Plunket hoped to install a very sophisticated system able to connect with GP and specialists’ systems as well as PlunketLine and the organisation’s car seat rental scheme. “We are looking at a tablet kind of device,” said Hynes.

The Plunket nurse would not only use the device to record clinical data and milestones, but the embedded software tool would support best practice by providing decision support advice. Hynes said for example if a nurse recorded that a child had not smiled by five months the tool would prompt advice on whether a referral should be considered.

Hynes said Plunket would have access to far more comprehensive national data on child development and responses to domestic violence screening. At present only about 10 per cent of the information recorded by Plunket nurses was entered into the database.

Plunket chief executive Jenny Prince said it expected the project to have an enormous impact on the health outcomes of New Zealand children.

“We are very determined for this to go ahead and we will find the funding,” Hynes said. “We’ve got to do it.”

It could take up to five years before there was full delivery of the project and it was fully interoperable with other services.

The aim is each time a child is seen by a GP or Plunket nurse, an electronic report can be relayed to the other party. Also it would be interoperable with specialist services and midwife referrals. Internally the system would also provide PlunketLine nurses with the ability to access and make notes on records.

Hynes said a novel development it hoped to provide was the ability for parents to access their child’s record online through the Plunket portal and not only read the file but also add in milestones like a child’s first steps, occurring between Plunket nurse visits.