ACT boldly going with Beaker

Pulse+IT had a very interesting chat to ACT Health CIO Peter O’Halloran last week, who told us all about the quite remarkable feat his team achieved, along with electronic medical record vendor Epic and cloud hosting provider NTT, in getting a full version of the Epic EMR up and hosted to help out with the territory’s Phase 1a vaccination services.

ACT Health awarded a tender to Epic last year as part of its $151 million digital health record project, which will go live in a big bang implementation in September next year. We knew that Epic’s patient administration system would be used to replace the ACTPAS one, but Mr O’Halloran also revealed that a decision had been made to not proceed with the procurement of a new laboratory information system using a different supplier, instead plumping for Epic’s Beaker LIS.

ACT Health will also split the radiology information system from its existing Agfa RIS-PACS system and roll out Epic’s Radiant RIS instead. In Mr O’Halloran’s words, ACT Health is going all out for Epic, and it will be very interesting to watch.

This will be the first implementation in Australia of Epic’s LIS, RIS and PAS, and we were particularly intrigued by the choice for pathology. This has been a very active sector of the market in Australia over the last number of years, with Queensland trying and failing to replace Auslab with Sunquest, PathWest going live last year with its new system from SCC Soft Computer, Auslab being rolled out at Victoria’s Parkville precinct, and a big implementation of SCC at private pathology provider Healius.

NSW Health Pathology is also looking to streamline its three or four different systems into one statewide system under a tender released last November. NSW Health is keen on one-vendor solutions so Cerner’s pathology system is in with a good chance for that one. We’ll be keen to see how the ACT goes with Beaker, which has notable users such as Stanford University Medical Centre, Johns Hopkins Pathology and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.

ACT Health has been doing a lot of preparatory work leading up to the EMR roll-out, including upgrading its network, rolling out new wayfinding and digital signage systems in its hospitals and implementing a new patient journey and online bed management system using Alcidion’s Miya platform. It is also shortly going live with a new communications and paging system using a combination of technology from Wavelink and its own internally developed apps. We’ll have more on that in the next couple of weeks.

In late news, the Australian Department of Health has released details of the contract it signed with HealthEngine to provide the somewhat controversial national vaccine booking system for the Phase 1b and beyond vaccination program. HealthEngine is being paid $3,849,809 over 12 months for its services, which will handily cover the $2.9m fine it was levied by the ACCC last year.

We’re not sure if the system is able to handle cancellations though, which are reportedly coming thick and fast in the wake of yesterday’s announcement about the AstraZeneca vaccine and the resultant chaos it has caused the vaccine roll-out in general practice. There are numerous reports that some practices just won’t bother with the hassle anymore, and how it will affect the Phase 2a plans for community pharmacy is anyone’s guess.

That brings us pertinently to our pre-Easter poll question from a fortnight ago, when we asked: Do you think Australia’s vaccine roll-out is on track? Three-quarters of respondents were in the negative at that time – 74 per cent saying no to 26 per cent saying yes – which seems to be proving prescient.

We asked last year if you thought ACT Health’s big bang approach was the right one, and 60 per cent said yes. This week we ask:

Is ACT Health’s “all in with Epic” philosophy the right one?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.

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