Digital hospitals will roll on despite chequered career for EMRs

Our little scoop on Tuesday about the shortlist for the Northern Territory's $186 million Core Clinical Systems Renewal Program (CCSRP) was by far the most-read story for the week and one of the most popular for the year, and last week's story about how Royal Children’s Hospital has fared with its new EMR wasn't far behind.

The release of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) digital health strategy, which included some interesting tidbits on the EMR plans of some its health services, was also popular, as were the ever-interesting dramas surrounding the much-maligned EPAS in South Australia.

Having read the SA Auditor-General's report on the latter it's obvious that some of this week's headlines from other media outlets were hysterical to say the least, but in the fishbowl that is Adelaide, a one-newspaper town where the construction of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital would rival the cost of housing in Sydney as a talking point that goes beyond obsession into utter delusion, it's not a surprise that EPAS comes under the microscope.

Considering the horror headlines that have dogged many other public EMR roll-outs in Australia, it's a wonder that the Territory has the courage to go down this path. Remember HealthSmart in Victoria, which was excoriated by the Victorian Auditor-General for only managing to get one instance of Cerner up and running (although several other Cerner roll-outs outside the HealthSmart program managed just fine.)

Cerner weathered a similar lashing in NSW in 2011 following a devastating report by Jon Patrick that outlined numerous failings and led to the FirstNet remediation program, and it certainly hasn't come away unscathed in Queensland, where its first iterations were dogged by controversy. The full digital hospital roll-out seems to have gone swimmingly at Princess Alexandra but there have been some mutterings from Cairns. We hear that Townsville is next in the running so we'll keep an eye on that.

However, perhaps the only jurisdiction that has had it as tough as South Australia is WA, where a big bang EMR was planned but never eventuated. There, ICT systems took a lot of the blame for the delay in opening the landmark Fiona Stanley Hospital, and such was the intensity of the criticism it's a wonder Professor Stanley has kept her sanity.

With the NT the next to take the bold step and going all out with a $186 million budget, it is sure to come under the microscope. Will it choose one of the two US giants in Epic or Allscripts, the quieter achiever in InterSystems or will it become the first big test for Telstra Health? Fascinating stuff.

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