Epic leap for ACT Health

Pulse+IT's top story for this week was the announcement that the ACT had chosen Epic's EMR for the territory's ambitious digital health program. This came as little surprise as the health service had used the term “big bang implementation” at a vendor briefing not long after the release of the tender last year.

The most successful big bang in Australian healthcare – the only one, come to think of it – has been at the Royal Children's Hospital, which went live with Epic in 2016. RCH's neighbours in the Parkville precinct will be girding their loins next weekend for their big bang, with Epic set to go live at Royal Melbourne, Royal Women's and Peter Mac on Saturday, August 8.

RMH is already live with Epic's ED module in emergency, with the rest of hospital and the neighbours originally set to go live in May. COVID-19 put a stop to those plans and even though Victoria is riding its second wave, there is no indication that another delay will be called.

While EMR training was blamed for two infections at RMH recently, it appears that Melbourne Health is well prepared, for both COVID and Epic. Its ED is receiving emergency patients as usual but it has set up a separate respiratory ED for potential COVID-19 patients, along with specific COVID-19 wards. RMH is also developing a virtual hospital model for COVID-19 positive patients, monitoring non-acute patients by telehealth.

Back in the capital, and ACT Health has set a reasonably ambitious timeframe for its implementation of Epic at Canberra Hospital, Calvary Public and the University of Canberra Hospital. Configuration is due to begin next year and a go-live at the three hospitals is planned for some time in 2022-23, with community health, walk-in centres and Justice Health to follow.

ACT Health CIO Peter O'Halloran looks to be keen to implement what he says are new ways of caring for the community, with a patient portal, telehealth capabilities and artificial intelligence opportunities part of the 10-year digital health strategy. ACT Health is also soon to announce the winning bidder for its new laboratory information system. We hear that US firm Sunquest was named as preferred bidder, but its problems in Queensland may have changed that.

ACT Health has also recently gone live with Alcidion's Miya Precision patient journey and online bed management system, and Canberra Hospital is also receiving GP eReferrals through HealthLink's SmartForms. It seems to be well on the way to a digitally enabled health system.

The ACT announcement comes as NSW Health is gearing up to release an expression of interest for its state-wide single digital patient record, most likely at the end of this month. The single patient record is envisaged as a way to bring the three different EMRs, different PAS systems and the four different LIS environments together across the NSW public health system.

Also this week were more firsts for the national electronic prescription network, with WA and Queensland announcing they had both successfully written and dispensed an eScript. Maxim Street Family Medical Practice and Star Discount Pharmacy in Sydney's West Ryde also achieved the feat, although one patient was not too impressed. 89-year-old Lillian is most definitely not a mobile nerd.

There were also some interesting developments in remote monitoring of different patient groups at Alfred Health, Monash Health and Metro South in Brisbane. If one good thing comes out of Covid, hopefully it will remote monitoring and telehealth becoming the norm rather than the exception.

We also noted with sadness this week the premature death of RACGP president Harry Nespolon. The kind words his colleagues had for him were exceeded only by those from his patients.

So, to our poll for the week. Last week we asked: Should exemptions be introduced to the new telehealth rules for vulnerable patient groups? Yes, most people say: 80 per cent said yes versus 20 per cent who said no.

This interesting result comes as the potential ramifications of restricting telehealth during the pandemic are being voiced by more groups, especially those in sexual and reproductive health. 200 people signed this open letter to Greg Hunt calling for the temporary item numbers to be reinstated. We'll see how it goes.

This week we ask:

Is an Epic big bang the right strategy for ACT Health?

Click here to vote or leave your thoughts below.


0 # Sally Ridley 2020-08-01 08:57
The Big Bang implementation will require a big team it is a huge change management and adoption by clinical stakeholders with expertise from a multidisciplina ry clinical informatics team to ensure implementation is well planned and patient safety and all elements are covered, tested and planned well. After implementation it is key that there is resources to ensure optimisation continues
0 # Tony Sara 2020-08-01 10:58
could support a hospital at a time - but where will the resources come from for elbow support for ALL sites at once? techies making their lives easier at the expense of clinicians...??

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