Curious case in FNQ

This week kicked off with a curious story first revealed over the weekend by the Cairns Post, which reported that the two far north Queensland hospital and health services had parted ways with the vendor chosen to roll out the electronic medical record part of the proposed Regional eHealth Project (ReHP).

This project has been on the drawing board since 2012, when Queensland Health got lucky in a bid for funding from the Commonwealth Health and Hospitals Fund (HHF), which was one of three infrastructure investment funds set up in the 2008-9 federal budget to the tune of $22.4 billion. The HHF got $5 billion of that to fund capital investment in health facilities, including for medical technology and equipment.

We first reported on this project back in 2012, and at the time the actual details of what the money would be used for were very sketchy. They still are. There were plans to invest in IT infrastructure, particularly in the Torres Strait, and we were told this week by lead agency Cairns and Hinterland HHS (CHHHS) that some money had been spent on this. The latest figures – helpfully displayed on the Queensland government's very informative Digital Projects Dashboard – show that $24.5 million of the $35m has been spent.

(The dashboard is an excellent initiative, by the way. Most projects seem to be moving along well, although a handful are in the amber zone along with the ReHP, including the state's new Sunquest lab system, which has had more functionality added to its scope, and the practice management enterprise project, which involves the roll-out of the MediRecords cloud PMS and is being rescheduled and re-budgeted. New Zealand had a major projects dashboards at one stage that proved mighty useful for keeping track of projects but they don't seem to have updated it for the last two years.)

Back in 2012, we were told by reasonably well-placed sources that getting the ReHP grant in the first place came as a bit of a surprise, but that the-then federal government, heading for electoral oblivion, was keen to get as much spent as quickly as possible. Whether this is true or not we don't know – the Australian National Audit Office gave the fund and its administration a clean bill of health at the time – but there's no doubt the project has muddled along for some years.

The original plan was to roll out something similar to the Northern Territory's system, which included a primary care solution used in remote clinics along with a community care solution, and which could be used in FNQ's numerous remote health centres and small hospitals, particularly throughout the Torres Strait.

When the project finally went to tender in 2016, it specified a solution encompassing patient registration and administration, patient management and billing, a clinical record, assessments and care planning, and patient self-management. It would be used in government-delivered primary care settings along with multi-purpose health centres that provide aged and mental health care.

Western Australia's ISA Healthcare Solutions, which markets the MMEx web-based platform, won the tender to do an implementation planning study in 2017, and there were hopes the first sites would go live in mid-2018. When we spoke to ISA, the company seemed confident about the roll-out.

Not this week though. A spokesperson from CHHHS confirmed ISA would not be part of the next phase of the project, with CHHHS in talks with an alternative vendor for the next phase. Try as we might, we couldn't winkle the name of that alternative vendor out of CHHHS, so if you know, send us a tip, anonymously if needs be.

Also making headlines this week was GP desktop software vendor Best Practice, which is very close to releasing its Best Health app into the wild. BP has put a lot of time and effort into the development of the app, which promises to help practices improve efficiency in communicating with their patients.

In New Zealand, new functionality has been added to the South Island's HealthOne shared primary care record system. The new GP dashboard will allow general practices to quickly see data on patients who have been admitted to hospital or discharged, or who have died. They can also see their patients' outpatients appointments, and whether any have been missed. The functionality will be particularly useful for the region's Health Care Homes.

And finally, Sydney Local Health District welcomed young Charlene Nguyen to the world with an electronic medical record when she made her appearance on October 1. Sydney LHD is the first in NSW to go live with PowerChart Maternity, the maternity module of the Cerner Millennium suite that forms the state's eMR. Greetings, Charlene.

That brings us to our poll question for the week: Should all jurisdictions set up publicly accessible dashboards for major IT projects?

Sign up to our weekend edition or Pulse+IT Chat to vote, or leave your thoughts below.

Last week we asked: Should DOH and MOH be responsible for collecting population health data rather than the PHOs and PHNs? A clear majority said yes: 64 per cent to 36 per cent.

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