Software halves time to diagnose broken bones

Australian software developed by CSIRO and trialled in collaboration with emergency medicine clinicians in Brisbane could halve the time taken to treat patients with undetected broken bones.

The trial was led by Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital (RBWH) Director, Emergency Medicine Research, Associate Professor Kevin Chu, with funding from the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF).

A/Prof Chu said the new software automatically matched X-ray reports with discharge reports, significantly speeding up the current manual process.

“If a patient is admitted to a hospital emergency department with a suspected break or fracture they are X-rayed, treated and sent on their way,” he said.

“However, when the X-ray report is later checked by a radiologist, they may pick up more subtle fractures.”

A/Prof Chu said of the 3000 people who presented each year to the RBWH Emergency with suspected broken bones, about one per cent needed to be re-assessed due to subtle fractures missed during the initial examination.

“At the moment, the specialist has to manually match the radiology report with the discharge report, so the patient can be contacted to come back in. That can take days,” he said.

“The new software automates the process, minimising delays which can cause patients serious discomfort and, in some cases, contribute to significant long-term injury.”

The software provides an IT solution to a clinical problem. It accesses data from multiple hospital and health services to classify abnormalities from X-ray reports and link this finding with the patients’ emergency department discharge diagnoses. If implemented in hospitals, the system would generate a (near) real-time ranked prioritised listing of cases for clinical review.

The successful software trial at the RBWH was made possible via a $139,000 EMF grant, funded by the Queensland Government.

EMF Chair Associate Professor Sally McCarthy said collaboration between innovators in healthcare research such as CSIRO and EMF was crucial to improving the health system.

“This software is a clever way to modernise one aspect of our healthcare system,” said A/Prof. McCarthy.

“By fast-tracking diagnoses and streamlining our health services, we can save time and energy as well as delivered improved patient outcomes.”


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