A hospital in Australia has become among the first in the world to install a fully paperless medication management system which covers the patient journey from diagnosis to discharge.

The pilot, launched in the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) by the Northern Territory’s Minister for Health Dr Peter Toyne, will test the MedChart software, which covers prescribing, review of medication and administration.

The system is XML-based, networked across the hospital over thin clients, is fully HL7-compliant, and uses a SQL database for records; however, it can be adapted to other databases and languages.

It is based on a server sited within the hospital, and Internet Explorer is used to access, maintain and view records over a secure connection. The software can also be set up to allow access to information over a WAN or from clinicians based elsewhere.

“There is no other hospital in Australia that has a fully paperless medication management and decision support system implemented”, says Tony Firth, from Hatrix, manufacturer of MedChart. "At RDH, we have the doctors prescribing, the pharmacists reviewing the prescriptions and the nurses administering the medications, all using the same system.

“It’s closed loop medication management. The paper medication chart at the end of the bed is gone."

Staff do have the option of printing out records, database reports and statistics, but the shifting of paper has been effectively eliminated from the process of managing medication.

“The hospital sector has been slow to embrace IT at a clinical level. This has had a lot to do with the fact that up until now, the systems have not existed," Firth says. 

The RDH is hoping that the pilot will result in a substantial decrease in medication errors and bad reactions to drugs, the effects of which are said to kill more Australians each year than traffic accidents.