Tauranga's Waipuna Hospice may have seemed an unlikely winner of the Westpac Business Award's Innovation category last month, says chief executive Richard Thurlow. But the award reflected the hospice's early embrace of a patient care software that has resulted in a collective saving of $100,000 annually in IT administration costs for itself and four other hospices across the region, he said.

The hospice has been working for several years with Australian company PalCare, which provides a secure, cloud-based electronic patient record. Mr Thurlow heads the user group for the system, which is now used in 21 hospices across the country.

The Waipuna Hospice holds the PalCare head of contract for Waikato Hospice, Eastern Bay of Plenty Hospice, Lakes Hospice (Taupo and Rotorua), and Hospice Tairawhiti in Gisborne. Waipuna's role saves the hospices in software and IT admin costs, he said.

The Westpac awards judges praised the hospice's work with PalCare in providing good data, allowing the hospice to measure trends in the short-and long-term.


"With the success of the rollout, the system has been now been adopted nationally and has delivered significant savings," the judges said.

"It has allowed the hospice to deliver a better service to their patients, provided more efficiency in the way staff work, and is measuring data and trends which allows for longer-term planning at both a regional and national level."

PalCare general manager Mark Ellis told the Bay of Plenty Times from Melbourne that it was challenge for any agency to innovate and maintain infrastructure costs, while improving patient-centred health care across vast areas with an increasingly mobile work force.

"It was clear from the start that Richard and the team had a vision for modernising the face of palliative care services," Mr Ellis said. "Not just for his catchment area, but to collaborate with other regional hospices in improving patient care through evolving technologies."

Waipuna Hospice, which embraced IT a decade ago, has been working with PalCare so information can be pulled out by a simple one or two click process, which takes a load off the administration, said Mr Thurlow.

"PalCare encodes all our patient information and care plans and issues-based, so we're looking at the things that are most important to the patients and families. That way the care is really targeted and focused. The data has already been entered by the staff, so there's not a lot of extra work to get to those end points, which is really great."

Mr Thurlow noted that the hospice service origins had a strong voluntary component.

Using the new technology not only allowed Waipuna to improve patient care, but also meant it could extract more detailed information data locally and nationally to make its case to the ministry and district health boards about workloads, he said.

"Over the past six years the ministry has rolled out some set standards, which we can measure ourselves against," he said.

"We've now got some clear definitions of the things they want us to measure and we've been working with Palcare to refine the software for our needs."

Mr Thurlow said the award also reflected Waipuna Hospice's innovative contribution, through its partnership with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board Health Board, in refining the new technical reporting process required by the Ministry of Health.


Waipuna Hospice
-Provides: Specialist medical care for patients living with a life-limiting illness, and support services for them and their families.
-Geographical area: Waihi Beach to Paengaroa.
-Focus: Hospice at Home, with a 9-bed inpatient unit for short-term admissions, and a day services clinic.
-Staff: 116
-Volunteers: 720