EMRs get the green light

There was some big news in electronic medical records this week, with the South Australian government giving the green light to the roll-out of Allscripts' Sunrise EMR and patient administration system in additional metro hospitals. SA Health has had a troubled history with what was formerly known as EPAS, having launched a highly ambitious program to roll the combined EMR/PAS out to all of its hospitals over a decade ago before becoming bogged down in implementation troubles.

Having gone live in a handful of hospitals, the project was halted in 2018 and an independent panel took a close look at its future before a decision was made to separate the EMR from the PAS and try a different implementation model at Mt Gambier and Royal Adelaide.

Those projects are both now live, and the government is satisfied enough to stump up almost $200 million to roll the platform out in the remaining local health networks, including some decent sized hospitals in Flinders Medical Centre, Lyell McEwin and Modbury. This week's state budget also included a large chunk of change for the new women's and children's hospital that the government intends to attach to the new RAH. The EMR expansion is good news for Allscripts, which also recently went live with Sunrise at Latrobe Regional Hospital in Victoria, where the EMR is integrated into Microsoft's Azure environment.

The Australasian Institute of Digital Health was holding its inaugural virtual summit this week, kicking off in Brisbane on Tuesday and in Perth on Friday. WA released a 10-year digital health strategy last year with a statewide EMR as the centrepiece, and in an update today, Judith Stewart, executive director of strategy, policy and planning at the WA Department of Health, reiterated the importance of it to the overall strategy. WA is expected to tender for the EMR in the next year or so, and in the meantime it is building infrastructure to support it, including the HealthNext project, which involves wide area network services and new data centre and cloud services. WA Health is also out to tender for a medical imaging platform, and Ms Stewart today said PathWest's new laboratory information system was now live.

Melbourne's Northern Health has also just signed a contract to implement a Cerner EMR, a project that has been in the works for a number of years. It is finally getting underway and will involve all inpatient and subacute services. We'll have more on that next week. The AIDH's virtual digital health summit will also continue next week, with the Sydney event being held on Tuesday and Melbourne on Friday, and Adelaide the following week.

Bendigo Health is also due to go live at the end of the month with its new TrakCare EMR from InterSystems, having been delayed for six months due to COVID. The Northern Territory is also rolling out a huge InterSystems platform and is live in read-only mode in one site, with an expectation it will be fully functional at that site early next year.

We also had some news on patient administration systems. Albury Wodonga Health is replacing several legacy systems with a new one from DXC that will see a lot of deduplication going on to more safely manage patients no matter which side of the border they are on.

There was also plenty of news on the remote monitoring front. There are any number of remote monitoring of COVID+ patients happening around the country at the moment with a variety of technologies being deployed, including by hospital-based services like RPAVirtual and Royal Melbourne's Redcap-based system. West Moreton Hospital and Health Service is using a Philips system, the Gippsland region is using the LifeguardMobile platform from US firm Lifeguard Health Networks, while Maryborough district is one of several that has chosen Telstra Health's Virtual Health Monitoring service.

They were joined last week by South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) which is trialling the Biofourmis wearable armband and clinical dashboard. This is also being used by Murrumbidgee LHD in association with its deployment of Alcidion's Miya Precision platform. 500 units have also been sent to the Howard Springs quarantine facility outside of Darwin, where they will be used to monitor repatriated Australians housed in converted dongas in the former mining camp.

Remote monitoring trials like these are causing as much excitement in the political ranks as telehealth, with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard telling Channel 9 that he was confident the SWS LHD trial would continue after the pandemic. The CSIRO has in the past shown how remote monitoring of patients at risk of hospitalisation could save the health system a fortune, but it looks like it took COVID to finally get it moving large scale.

That brings us to our poll question for this week:

Are EMRs now an essential technology for acute care services?

If not, why not? Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.

Last week we asked: Should Victoria have mandated a QR code check-in app for all businesses before easing restrictions? The vast majority agree: 83 per cent said yes, 17 per cent said no.

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