SCMP Monday, July 31, 2000

Advance offers swift access to vital details


With a few clicks on the keyboard, Dr Jimmy Chan brings the accident and emergency information system to life on the computer screen at the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po.

He types in the sample date of August 22 last year - the day the China Airlines jet crashed at Chek Lap Kok - and information begins popping up. In about a minute, a list of the 219 victims appears, and can be searched from age to extent of injuries. "You can get this information on any work station in any hospital. We can entertain media requests, and also requests for information from relatives," he said.

The system is Dr Chan's baby. He wrote the first version of the program in DOS computer language in 1993. Now in its second version, the system is one of the two main computer tools introduced under the Hospital Authority's 10-year push towards "e-medicine" in its 44 hospitals. The system is online in the authority's 14 emergency-care hospitals, along with another, more patient-centred program, the clinical management system.

The accident and emergency system has several functions, Dr Chan explains. Besides disaster management, it also stores every possible emergency procedure - he clicks, and explicit directions for treating a dog bite appear.

The system incorporates real-time functions. One screen has waiting times at all emergency-care hospitals, while another shows the wait in his own emergency room. "See? There are two waiting, five being seen in the cubicles, and eight patients in the observation rooms. Because we can use this to log hourly attendance, we can adjust manpower now according to demand," he said.

The system can also perform what he called "disease surveillance". "Look, these are bee bite cases. If we see those rise [significantly], then we can report to the district [councils] and they can educate Tai Po residents on the prevention of bee stings," Dr Chan said. He regularly reports on the "top 20 diseases" each month - diarrhoea is usually number one.

The clinical management system means that when a patient arrives, all demographic information is entered just once.

The program features an "alert" screen that flashes red if a patient has drug allergies or other serious medical conditions. It is connected directly to the pharmacy to process drug prescriptions instantly.

The system also generates and saves "discharge summaries" for patients, complete with a barcode for easy retrieval of medical records for doctors.