Past the headlines, great things will come from the new Perth Children’s Hospital.

With headlines often focused elsewhere, what is often missed is the extraordinary opportunity the new Perth Children’s Hospital presents for paediatric health care and research in WA. Perth could be about to get one of the world’s great children’s hospitals.

What do I mean by ‘great’? It is more than excellent infrastructure, equipment and staff. Great means making sure children benefit from the latest advances from around the world, constantly contributing to new knowledge, acting as a beacon to attract the best and brightest staff, and giving its home town and state immense pride and confidence.

201702-Carapetis-Jonathan-Prof-lab Jan17Director of Telethon Kids Institute Prof Jonathan CarapetisAround the world the very best children’s hospitals– Great Ormond St in London, Sick Kids in Toronto, Boston Children’s and more – all have in common research as part of their very fabric. Families know their children will likely be asked to participate in research, clinicians come to work there so they can combine research with clinical care, and the leadership takes pride in and celebrates research outcomes.

For those who don’t know, Telethon Kids Institute will be relocating into the top two floors of the Perth’s Children’s Hospital towards the end of 2017, along with other paediatric focused research groups.

There’s no doubt that bringing medical research and clinical care under the one roof will improve care for sick children, mean faster translation of research results into clinical practice and seed emerging clinical questions into research.

Careers and recruitment will be boosted. Many top clinicians have strong research interests and wouldn’t look to WA without a robust research environment. For families, it brings confidence that their child is receiving world-class care.

However, something quite fundamental is missing. While our state-of-the-art children’s hospital is teeming with technology, it will open using paper records.

As a clinical research colleague put it to me, we’re moving with “clipboards!”

Electronic records undoubtedly reduce errors in medication and treatment, saving lives as well as money – that’s an immediate benefit for our patients. It allows a hospital to constantly evaluate and improve the quality of care.

But there’s an even bigger picture here. Wonderful software packages called Integrated Health Solutions bring together all of the information from an entire hospital into one ‘super’ electronic record. Data collected electronically – and de-identified – is rich information for the research sector and can fast-track the type of treatment improvements and breakthroughs the community is craving.

Of course, there are lessons from failed implementations of electronic health records in other hospitals and in my view it’s a good thing that the Perth Children’s Hospital is not trying to implement a new electronic records system at the very same time it commissions itself, but it should be top of the future agenda. Planning needs to start now because it takes at least two years of careful preparation to make sure everything works well right from the start.

The Perth Children’s Hospital has nearly all the ingredients to be a great children’s hospital of the world – electronic health records is the last piece of the puzzle.

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