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A view from Australia: How SA Health successfully managed the first wave of COVID-19

Whilst the story of COVID-19 has a few more chapters to be written, Australia’s management of the pandemic could be considered a global success story.

As of early June, Australia had just over 7,000 cases and 102 deaths in a population of nearly 25 million people. In South Australia, where Allscripts has its regional headquarters, the stats are even better, thanks to the excellent management of the pandemic by SA Health. As of early June, the disease’s toll in South Australia was 440 cases with four deaths in a population of 1.7 million people.

The numbers tell one part of the story, but the details of the SA Health response highlight the need for confidence and agility in your management approach and your technology.

The importance of widespread testing is well documented and SA Pathology, the public pathology provider operated by SA Health, has one of the highest testing rates in the world and were among the first to initiate drive-through testing facilities.

A swift decision to successfully manage an influx of patients

In March, as COVID-19 spread rapidly throughout the world, SA Health took the courageous decision to complete its Sunrise™ implementation at the 800-bed Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), the state’s flagship hospital. SA Health simultaneously and proactively implemented a range of innovations to ensure that all COVID-19 cases were prioritised and effectively managed at the RAH. As the lead site for the SA Health management of COVID-19, there was a belief that they would need the full capabilities of the Sunrise electronic medical record to successfully manage the influx of COVID-19 patients, as had been seen in places such as Italy and Spain.

SA Health took swift and decisive action to roll-out significant practical measures and to make the most of the technology at its disposal. Success should be attributed to the strict social distancing methods enforced by local health authorities, but these efforts were enhanced by SA Health’s use of its Sunrise electronic medical record to meet the rapidly evolving needs of COVID-19.

The SA Health Chief Digital Health Officer, Mr Bret Morris, openly acknowledged the role of Sunrise as an “important instrument” in the SA Health management of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The ability to change (the SA Health Sunrise electronic medical record) at pace enabled us to be nimble and for excellent case traceability of patients as they moved through the system.”

The challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed SA Health to demonstrate its capability on a national and global stage. It has also shown that in Allscripts, SA Health has a partner that is able to act quickly, and in their Sunrise electronic medical record, SA Health has a flexible and capable solution that can be rapidly tailored to meet the needs of any situation.

The changes SA Health made to their Sunrise electronic medical record included the addition of COVID-19 to problem lists, the implementation of specific isolation orders, admission notes and COVID-19-specific Medicare billing and were live in a matter of days. Mr Morris summed it up by saying, “what Sunrise enabled us to do was to rapidly deploy around a dozen changes to the system that enabled important and accurate reporting on all COVID-19-related activities.”

Supporting the decision to complete the Sunrise implementation at the RAH in March, the rapid changes made to Sunrise were “very powerful and significantly improved both reporting and an enhanced clinical response in a situation where every hour matters in the administration of treatment to COVID-19 patients. You cannot do real-time reporting with paper,” said Mr Morris.

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