Big week for health IT bigwigs

It was a big week for Australian Digital Health Agency CEO Tim Kelsey, who in addition to being able to announce a pretty big deal for the My Health Record – Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology is about to start uploading pathology reports to the system for people living in northern Queensland – also had the thrill of attending Senate Estimates hearings in Canberra, where we imagine his bum went numb while he waited interminable hours for some plodders to get through questioning the ever-patient John Skerritt from the TGA about the state of medicinal cannabis.

Professor Skerritt's interrogation took hours on Monday night, but it could have been worse for Mr Kelsey and his gang of EGMs from the agency, who apparently also turned up in Canberra but were not called upon to answer anything. Senate Estimates enthusiasts are still recovering from the oddities of years gone past, such as former senator John Madigan's fixation on the TGA's appalling attitude towards the deleterious effects on citizens of Lyme disease and wind turbine sickness, one of which doesn't exist in Australia and one of which doesn't exist at all.

Late in the evening Mr Kelsey was able to get one very short word in edgeways before health technology proceedings were wrapped up after about 25 minutes. Most of the interest in the brief session was on the claim in the federal budget that the government expects to save $305 million over four years through “health system efficiencies” and fewer duplicated lab tests due to the MyHR. Senator Lisa Singh remained unconvinced by Paul Madden and Bettina Konti's arguments about this, and to be honest, so do we.

Also having a big week were the CIOs of our most populous states, with Zoran Bolevich from NSW, Andrew Saunders from Victoria and Richard Ashby from Queensland fronting up for a chat with Mr Kelsey at a conference in Sydney on Wednesday. It was nice to hear from Dr Bolevich about the relatively smooth progress of the Cerner Millennium roll-out, which in NSW is known as eMR2. As those who have been around the traps a bit will remember, the first attempt at rolling out Cerner was a bit of a disaster, not helped by a very long and detailed report on the failings of the system by Jon Patrick in 2011 which received wall to wall coverage in the local newspapers.

We vultures in the media pounced on that report ravenously, but some who have stuck around later learned that the system wasn't as bad as it was made out to be. We hope Dr Ashby in Brisbane has also recovered from his travails over the last few weeks, when the local newspapers smelled blood about the hiccup with the Cerner ieMR up there. The Courier Mail had four reporters covering the story at one stage, which seems a bit much for a yarn about slow log-ins to a computer system. However, Dr Ashby should thank his lucky stars that he doesn't have to put up with what Bill Le Blanc does in Adelaide. That's pure torture, that is.

As Cerner is rolled out in NSW and Queensland, and has a good foothold in Victoria, it was interesting to read a report from US analysts KLAS this week that showed that while Cerner and Epic are dominant in the US market, with Allscripts, McKesson and Meditech not far behind, outside of the US it is InterSystems that has racked up the most wins in the last couple of years.

Here in Australia, InterSystems has a reasonable footprint in Victoria with TrakCare and is set to roll out at the smashing new Bendigo Hospital later in the year. It has also been implemented at Macquarie University Hospital in Sydney, where it displaced a best-of-breed conglomeration. All eyes next week will be on the Northern Territory, where an announcement on its big core clinical systems renewal program is imminent.

Our money is on InterSystems. We hear that of the four shortlisted vendors, Telstra Health was the first casualty, with Allscripts and Epic asked to park their bids while TrakCare was put through its paces. The dotted line is about to be signed in what is the biggest ICT contract in Territory history so we trust they'll get it right. Otherwise it could be the NT News going after NT Health CIO Stephen Moo, and considering its predilection for crocodile yarns, that could be truly terrifying.

Our poll last week asked: Do you think the healthcare workforce is adequately prepared for the digital health revolution? A brave few said yes, but an overwhelming 92 per cent said no.

Tags: Cerner, Allscripts, Epic, InterSystems, My Health Record, CCSRP

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