E-health system launch delayed
South Australia's electronic health record (EHR) project has been delayed by several months due to accounting complexity. Photo: Andrew Quilty
The launch of the computer system meant to form the foundation of one of the Australia's first e-health record projects has been delayed by several months due to accounting complexity.
South Australia's electronic health record (EHR) was to be one of the first in the national push for electronic patient records, a national project already marred by delays.
SA Health's Enterprise Patient Administration System (EPAS) is made up of clinical, patient administration and billing modules. It was due to go live in the first week of March. It will form one of four projects in a $408 million upgrade of the state organisation's systems.
US technology supplier Allscripts advised SA Health late in 2012 the delivery of billing modules would be delayed due to problems with the billing system.
“They called a delay of two months in December. They have just delivered the billing modules and we are 80 per cent through testing them. We can't re-baseline until all the modules have passed testing,” said SA Health chief information officer David Johnston.
After this test by the IT department, the system will go through user-acceptance testing for roughly two months.
“That two-month delay really translates into a three or four-month delay,” Johnston said. “But we can't put an exact date on going live until we've done the last of the billing module tests. If billing is not right we can't go live.
"The irony is the clinicians have signed off, EPAS is signed up and we get caught by the accountants. That's usually not the case, it's usually the clinical components that cause delays due to their high complexity.”
SA Health is being cautious with the rollout in light of interstate IT debacles such as Queensland Health's payroll system, currently the subject of an inquiry.
“We are very cognisant of hitting false dates,” Johnston said. “That seems to be a real recipe for disaster... Obviously we don't want to put out a product that is not ready. We've polled the people in the business – they'd prefer we put a product out that is going to be satisfying most of their needs and they are prepared to wait. At this stage we won't put it out without thorough testing.”
SA Health will not commit to a rollout date as yet.
Johnston said they had built contingency into the plans and claimed no cost impact from the delay.
“It has actually gone really well, it's just these accountants.”
The delay has had one additional outcome, however. All of the 30,000 SA Health employees may learn if they can bring their own devices to work to access EPAS in the next two months. Johnston said a new BYOD policy was expected to be completed in May.
Apple iPhones, iPads and a small range of Android and Windows 8 mobile devices are likely to be approved. SA Health is considering using virtual desktop technology to provide access to apps on Android to mitigate security risks.
A parallel effort to upgrade the organisation's 25,000 PCs to Windows 7, started before the launch of Windows 8, is also expected to be completed shortly, along with ubiquitous wireless connectivity in hospitals.