CHAT your way to health


Going under anaesthetic for surgery can be stressful and scary.

Even the paperwork can be annoying—there are countless forms and questions that need to be answered, more than once.

Whilst this can be frustrating and time consuming for both staff and patients, attention to detail is essential to prevent potentially life-threatening issues being overlooked.

Now, thanks to University of Adelaide and SA Health researchers, headed by Professor of Anaesthesia, Guy Ludbrook (pictured), people preparing for surgery can just have a chat.

Actually make that CHAT—Computer Health Assessment by Telephone—a computer system and questionnaire that covers all the bases, produces clinically verified results and can be done over the phone by non-clinical staff.

The system was developed at the University in conjunction with SA Health, and has been verified with anaesthetists at several hospitals in South Australia and Western Australia. It is now in clinical trials at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The trials are verifying that CHAT can not only make preoperative assessment more convenient and efficient, but may improve patient safety by reducing the chance of missing a potential surgical or medical complication, such as low thyroid function leading to dangerously low blood pressure.

When incorporated into current systems for screening before surgery, CHAT can improve the patient experience by reducing the number and length of trips to hospital required in the lead up to surgery, and can help to ease pre-surgical anxiety.

There are also substantial savings to the health system, by screening more patients in less time, and freeing up staff to work on other areas thereby reducing waiting lists.

The system was a finalist at the SA Health Awards 2013 and won the best paper award 2013 of the Journal of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care.

CHAT is a great example of a clever medical idea that improves patient outcomes and helps surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and pharmacists with their lifesaving, work.