Hospital upgrades computer security to prevent data-doctoring
Health Director-General Dr. Peggy Brown. Photo: Supplied
The Canberra Hospital will push ahead with new computer security measures designed to help prevent a repeat of the emergency department data-doctoring scandal.
Hospital executive Kate Jackson last year confessed to altering emergency department performance data and suggested that other people might also have been interfering with the system.
Investigations into the affair were hampered by the staff's widespread use of generic log-ins such as ''nurse'' and ''doctor'' to access the hospital's Emergency Department Information System (EDIS).
The Auditor-General recommended that staff be issued with unique log-ins but ACT Health Directorate officials were concerned that this would not be practical in a busy emergency department.
Health Directorate director-general Peggy Brown said on Thursday that slow log-in and log-off processes would have brought the casualty department to a ''grinding halt'' because doctors and nurses needed to quickly enter information into computer terminals in between seeing patients.
''It's not that we couldn't do it then, but we couldn't functionally have survived that,'' she said.
But Dr Brown said it now appeared that a planned upgrade to EDIS would enable the use of ''rapid log-on'' technology. ''It will bring us a greater capacity to actually use the single identifier, the unique log-ons,'' she said.
The Health Directorate was examining several ''rapid log-on'' systems already being used in other hospitals.
It was hoped that eventually a single electronic card could be used by Health Directorate staff to unlock doors and access a range of computer systems.
The creation of a new data ''warehouse'' would also enable non-emergency department staff to access EDIS data without being able to alter it.
''That's actually going to be accessible to the people outside of the ED. They could target the data they want without having to have access to EDIS itself,'' Dr Brown said.
A computer server crash on Wednesday led to delays in the emergency department as staff were forced to use paper records instead of EDIS.
A new server, which had been due to go into service in about a fortnight, had to be rapidly brought online to fix the problem.
Data published this week showed that all states and territories except Western Australia had failed to meet emergency department performance targets last year. Dr Brown said the federal government had agreed that the ACT could still apply for $800,000 in ''reward funding'' from last year if it met or exceeded its targets.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher was again forced to defend the government's record in health in question time on Thursday after the opposition quizzed her about the server crash.
Liberal MLAs also demanded to know why ACT emergency patients were the least likely to be seen within four hours last year.
''Staff are very, very focused on this. They are working away at that now,'' Ms Gallagher said. ''We have capital works under way, we have new staff being recruited to generate extra capacity. But the reality is that we have two hospitals that are incredibly busy.''
Ms Gallagher said she was confident that the emergency department access targets would be met this year.