When no news is good news

This week, we checked in with South Australia to see how it was faring with the roll out of the state's electronic medical record in its largest hospital, the architectural marvel that is the new Royal Adelaide. We hadn't heard much from SA since the independent review into the much maligned EPAS system recommended early last year that the roll-out be paused while the system was optimised, so we thought we'd check on progress.

What we found was newly appointed chief medical information officer Santosh Verghese, who gave us an update on how he was overseeing the change in the roll-out schedule following the recommendation that EPAS be split into an EMR separate from the PAS. He also told us about the change in focus he was taking, moving from IT projects led by SA Health to projects led by clinicians.

Considering the bad press the EPAS roll-out suffered over the years, the fact that there has been very little news at all emanating from either the RAH or the other go-live site at Mt Gambier speaks of better planned and managed implementations than in the past. The fact that the revised roll-out has barely made a peep in the pages of the Adelaide Advertiser also speaks volumes.

Still in South Australia, and the government is expected to shortly announce the winning bidder for its proposed real-time prescription monitoring system, which will link to the federal government's new National Data Exchange to provide users with access to national data. Legislative changes are also required, as is a training program for healthcare practitioners and promises of more services for people identified as drug dependent following the roll-out.

South Australia only proposes to monitor schedule 8 medicines at the moment and hospital prescribing and dispensing is not yet in scope, so it was interesting to see from the information released by Queensland Health about its new RTPM system that it intends to monitor a similar regimen of medications to Victoria, where some schedule 4 drugs, including codeine, are being monitored under its SafeScript program.

Queensland is calling its system QScript and has contracted Fred IT to build it. Fred also built SafeScript, and looking at the details released so far about QScript, the similarities to SafeScript are obvious. The plan is to have it available later in the year.

While it is not yet available, Western Australia has contracted XVT Solutions to develop a system for it based on the Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) platform, which will replace WA's MODDS database. XVT built the original DORA system used in Tasmania, which ERRCD is based on, and which has been adapted by the ACT.

The Northern Territory monitors schedule 8 drugs via its Drug Monitoring System (DMS) but this does not alert prescribers or dispensers in real time, while NSW Health is very much lagging behind. Australia's wealthiest, most populous state does not seem to be in a hurry to get a real-time system up and running any time soon.

Next week, we'll have more news from South Australia about its policy on uploading clinical documents to the My Health Record for children under 18. It's an interesting one to say the least.

Meanwhile, we found this study on the use of activity trackers, wearables and virtual reality in improving mobility in people undergoing aged care and neurological rehabilitation interesting. What we liked most was its pragmatic nature, with a number of devices available that are tailored to the patient by their physiotherapist. Having a selection of devices such as Fitbits, iPads, Wiis and Xboxes means patient preference is taken into account, lead author Leanne Hassett said.

We liked her anecdotes too: “Participants loved Fitbits,” she said. “One woman would demand to put it on in the middle of the night before she went to the toilet, to make sure all her steps were counted.” Activity tracking devices like Fitbits are great motivators and can be a great deal of fun, as Pulse+IT's porkiest staff member can attest. Our kilos are wearing off as fast as our shoe rubber.

The study, one of the largest ever undertaken, involves a number of Australian universities and two Sydney local health districts. It's a good, practical example of digital health having positive outcomes.

Speaking of positive outcomes, there weren't much from our poll from last week. We asked if you thought the My Aged Care system was a white elephant. Absolutely, the vast majority said: 85 per cent agreed, while 15 per cent still had faith.

That brings us to our poll question for this week: Are you in favour of real-time prescription monitoring?

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

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