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Nagoya surgeon’s info-sharing system streamlines follow-up medical care at home

Kyodo

Concern over the follow-up care patients receive after hospitals discharge them has led a surgeon to devise a system for sharing information with welfare authorities and care services.

“The treatment of patients does not end at the hospital. Collaboration is thus indispensable,” said neurosurgeon Masaaki Mizuno, a professor at the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research at Nagoya University Hospital.

Mizuno developed the Electronic@Contact Book system to help patients with chronic diseases or disabilities who are in need of not only doctor visits, but nursing care and welfare services as well. The system is gaining widespread use in central Japan.

When there is a sudden change in a patient’s condition, prompt and proper responses must be made, making it imperative that doctors, nurses, caregivers and others all work together, he said.

Mizuno initially thought of creating a system that would cover an extensive area. But due to the various situations in each area, he gave up and decided to make the tool applicable to units of about 1,000 people in areas with populations of 50,000 to 100,000.

The system registers patients with their consent, allowing a team of medical, nursing and welfare personnel to be formed for each. Information on the patient is accessible only by the personnel registered and only from their registered computers and tablets.

The size of the team is small if the condition is not serious, but can be expanded as needed.

The system has been used chiefly in the Tokai region, particularly in Aichi Prefecture, where it is used in 46 of the 54 municipalities.

Internet Initiative Japan Inc., a Tokyo-based info-tech company, runs the system, with technical data provided by Nagoya University.

Tomoyuki Yamauchi, director of a urologic hospital in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, began using the information-sharing system in 2011.

Recounting one example, Yamauchi said he and other members of a care team using the system received a message from a nurse who had just visited a home-bound patient with a lower body disability. The message said: “Emergency: Patient has a festered boil.”

After checking the attached image of the boil, Yamauchi replied, “I can visit the patient at home by tomorrow.” He visited the patient later in the day and treated the boil.

He then sent a message requesting that the nurse change the patient’s gauzes and that a pharmacist check on how the medicine was being administered.

The doctor said he received responses from both the nurse and pharmacist the following day saying they had taken care of the patient as instructed.

The system makes treatment smoother and faster than communication via telephone and facsimile. It is “beyond comparison,” Yamauchi said.

“Doctors should recognize the need for collaboration with people in many other job categories concerned and encourage more patients to register in the system,” he said.

The information-sharing system is “no more than a tool,” Mizuno, the developer, said. “To utilize it, people involved should create relations that make them mutually recognizable.”