An electronic solution developed by Southern DHB to track body measurements from birth to death has been rolled out across the region through Health Connect South.
The solution, Anthropometrics (or eGrowth Charts), has been used at Southern DHB since it was created five years ago and the South Island Alliance supported the 1 June roll out across the South Island. Over 6000 patients have been entered into the system since regional implementation.
Anthropometrics enables patients’ key body measurements to be captured electronically and clinicians to easily enter and view the information. The system is part of an initiative to replace paper-based forms, reduce errors, and improve access to growth records of children and babies moving between DHBs.
Professor Barry Taylor collaborated with Lance Elder, application developer of Southern DHB, to create the tool in 2011. “As a paediatrician, I provided the clinical input needed for the tool to be as useful as possible,” Barry says. “I also liaised with the World Health Organisation around the additional features and international standards to measure against.”
He describes Anthropometrics as a ‘Swiss army’ tool. “It’s simple, easy to use and fits into the workplace. It was designed with what I require as a paediatrician in mind – designed by clinicians, for clinicians. The aim was to develop a tool that provides comparisons and was easy to follow without the need for instructions. It was a joint effort with IT and took six to nine months of interaction back and forward to develop and refine.”
The tool records height, weight, waist measurements and head circumference measurements at all ages, calculates BMI, provides eGrowth charts for children, and stores blood pressure readings. It compares the data against the average for the patient’s age and sex. “Another feature of the tool is the ability to predict a child’s final height, if both parents’ heights are provided. It also takes into account gestational age and automatically adjusts for children who were born prematurely, so the numbers are correct further down the track.”
Most growth issues are dealt with slowly, Barry says. “It’s no use looking at the data once, it has to be over a period of time. Growth rate is a very important measure of health, whether it’s under or over the average, and the tool provides a useful picture.”
The information is valuable for child health specialists and saves a lot of time and hassle. “It makes practice much easier and it’s very convenient to have all the information in one place,” he says. “It’s useful across a range of hospital settings – for example, even just for an x-ray, it’s really important to know all of the patient’s determinants, due to the many clinical and logistical issues involved.”
Through his role as chair of the South Island Clinical Advisory Group for Childhood Healthy Weight, Barry learned of the ongoing requests across the region for an electronic growth system. “The South Island Alliance recognised the need for a South Island-wide solution to store data more efficiently. A number of competing systems were independently reviewed and Anthropometrics proved to be the best tool available.
“A good system takes excellence – it has to be intuitive and make your job quicker and easier, so there is more time for the patient.”
Dr Nicola Austin, neonatal paediatrician at Christchurch Women’s Hospital, says having weight measurements charted by nursing staff before the child enters the clinic room is really helpful. “I’ve also been adding weight measurements from previous visits into the system, as it’s the in-between visit growth that’s important. One child I saw recently had grown up in the southern district, so I was able to see all his previous growth measurement since he was born – this made discussing the current growth with his parents so much more meaningful.”