04 April 2023

Over 140 health service representatives gathered at the recent Optimising VHIMS Data and Reporting to Improve Patient and Staff Safety forum to collaborate on achieving universal near real-time reporting of healthcare incidents.

Opening the forum, VAHI CEO Dr Lance Emerson said supporting health services to more easily and frequently report incident data has been a top priority since he joined VAHI in 2018

“Back then, the VHIMS system was seen as poorly designed, cumbersome to use and not fit for purpose,” Dr Emerson said.

“We have come a long way, but we still have the same vision for improvement today.”

The Department of Health and Safer Care Victoria (SCV) require near-real-time incident data to increase the visibility of system wide risks as they’re occurring, and to provide opportunities to detect and intervene early where suspected systemic risks to patient and staff safety are identified.

Austin Health has been working with VAHI on the VHIMS Automated Transmission Project to better support health services to transition to near-real time reporting. Austin Health’s Director of Patient Safety, Experience and Clinical Excellence, Luke Bowen, told the forum that a big focus has been on engaging health services to understand how they use their local systems, ensure their needs are being met, and respond to their concerns.

Austin Health’s Project Manager Simone Murphy said her team wanted to ensure all voices are heard, both big and small services and all health service types.

“We’ve built some great relationships and we really feel that we know where the problems are,” Ms Murphy said.

Key issues highlighted included technical issues with the API that prevent health services from transmitting a record until all mandatory fields are complete, as well as the high resource requirements to support manual transmission of incidents on a regular basis.

“We understood straight away that the reporting burden is really significant,” Ms Murphy said. “Our priority is to support real-time reporting to be automated by more services.”

Validation rules for incident reporting in the Victorian Healthcare Incident Management System (VHIMS) will be relaxed for all but closed incidents from 1 July, enabling services to report data sooner. In conjunction, the project is working with VHIMS software vendors to automate transmission of incident records via the VHIMS API.

Forum participants also heard from SCV and VAHI about how near-real-time incident data would be used and reported to improve safety. 

Megan Goadby, Manager of Patient Safety Review at SCV highlighted the need to move from a retrospective Safety I culture, to a prospective Safety II culture where good practice is celebrated and shared and timely data supports proactive identification and mitigation of emerging risks across the health system.

“Safety II enables us to learn from what goes right to reinforce success” Ms Goadby said.  “[With near real time data] SCV will be able to help guide health services on what improvement projects to put their resources into”. 

VAHI Director of Survey, Safety and Quality Insights, Adina Hamilton, provided an early look at what future VHIMS reports could look like. Ms Hamilton highlighted that the department had heard the feedback from the sector during the recent consultation on the VHIMS reporting strategy and would be working with stakeholders to ensure information products are valid and meaningful. 

“We need to know what data helps you see the system and your peers, and how you’d use that.” Ms Hamilton said.

“That’s what will help us design the visualisations and outputs for [VHIMS] reports”.

Dr Emerson said that while challenges remain, the potential benefits of more frequent reporting for both health services and patient care will make the effort worthwhile for all parties.

“We can’t progress this next stage without working collaboratively and collectively,” Dr Emerson said. “There’s a role for all of us.”

For more information about VHIMS, or for support for your health service in near-real-time reporting, please contact [email protected].