Spotlight back on Cerner in the Sunshine State

It's a big bad bungle after a database debacle after a computer catastrophe! No, not the My Health Record – this week it's the Cerner integrated electronic medical record (ieMR) that is rolling out in Queensland that is the topic of some over-excited headlines.

While Pulse+IT had a relatively sedate story this week on the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service postponing its roll-out of the digital hospital stack until next year because clinicians aren't quite ready for it yet – a sensible move, if you ask us – over at Channel 9, things were getting a little heated.

Channel 9 has come into the receipt of a “secret report” that shows that after the WannaCry ransomware attack in May last year, the ieMR at some of Queensland's largest hospitals continued to have hiccups in the weeks that followed. This seemed to come as news to Channel 9, despite the fact that besides specialist news outlets like Pulse+IT and the wider IT press, most of the state's newspapers also covered the story, in depth.

Channel 9 has been looking into Cerner and hasn't liked what it has seen, reporting in June that the company has had a number of failures over the years, including a few problems with the US Department of Defense and in the UK. That the US DoD recently signed a $16 billion deal with Cerner seems to have escaped the notice of Channel 9, as has its reasonably successful roll-out a bit closer to home.

We've covered it too – the budget blow-outs, the campaign by some top-ranking anaesthetists who don't want a bar of it and anyone who has been around the health IT scene in Queensland for any number of years will remember the infamous Pineapple Politics blog about eHealth Queensland's now CEO Richard Ashby, which we wrote about here.

We also wrote recently about the unusual step that eHealth Queensland has taken to issue a restricted tender to just five companies for the replacement of the state's HBCIS patient administration system, which is now so old it surely must qualify as an antiquity. We hear – but eHealth Queensland did not confirm – that Cerner and DXC are the two preferred companies to roll out a replacement. The industry in the Sunshine State is full of speculation that the whole tender has been set up to ensure the favoured vendor wins in the end, and the Channel 9 story also alluded to this.

All of this was happening while Pulse+IT attended the Health Information Management Association of Australia's (HIMAA) annual conference in Australia's most excellent city, Hobart. ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey popped up to talk about interoperability, and so did Alcidion CEO Kate Quirke, who told a rollicking good yarn about her career as a medical records staffer at the Alfred before being poached in the early 90s by McDonnell Douglas Information Systems to sell a little patient administration system called Homer.

Homer was once ubiquitous in Australia but has gradually been phased out in favour of the iSoft/CSC/DXC product iPM. Except in Queensland of course, where it lingers as, you guessed it, HBCIS.

The bad press for Cerner comes just as our poll last week found that EMRs, including the Cerner system used at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, are finally coming good. Last week, we asked: are hospital EMRs finally proving their worth? They're getting there, 60.5 per cent of our readers say. 39.5 per cent say not yet.

This week, we ask: is the public health IT procurement process transparent enough?

Sign up to our weekend edition to vote or leave your thoughts below.

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