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Error rates plummet as Denmark embraces epathology

Denmark has witnessed massive reductions in pathology errors made by clinicians since shifting from a paper-system to electronic pathology in 2008.

According to Erik Jacobsen, chief executive of Dansk Medicinsk Distribution (DMDD), mislabeling has been reduced by 209,000 instances per year and incomplete/unreadable forms have reduced from 325,000 to 91,000 cases. Electronic pathology has also eliminated unnecessary registrations and the reduction in related manual tasks has saved over 75,000 work hours.

Mr Jacobsen discussed the results during a recent speaking appearance at an Australian Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI) event held at the University of New South Wales.

The software developed by DMDD, called WebReq, is used by over 90 percent of Danish general practices. WebReq links the clinicians who order the pathology with the hospitals and labs where the pathology job is carried out.

“Orders that involve laboratories are complex because of the volume of data involved – it’s not like writing a [drug] prescription” said Mr Jacobsen. The electronic system simplifies the pathology ordering process, while virtually eliminating paper-based forms.

The only paper involved is the slip the doctor prints for the patient after they enter the order into the online system. This slip is barcoded and scanned at the pathology collection centre, matching the patient with the test order that has already been received online.

“When we built WebReq we were mindful of what patients, doctors, laboratories, hospitals and government are each looking for in the future of healthcare,” said Mr Jacobsen.

“Of course doctors want a device that can read their mind and make the order automatically,” he quipped.

In addition to Denmark, New Zealand clinicians have also embraced e-pathology. Over the past two years the New Zealand company HealthLink has introduced WebReq, which is offered there under the eLab branding. At present, 350 general practices are using eLab, with several more signing up every week.

During his visit to Australia Mr Jacobsen has met with government and industry officials. He declined to indicate whether WebReq was in contention for use as part of the PCEHR epathology specifications, which come into play in July 2013.