A RIVeR runs through it

Problems appear to be continuing to beset Far North Queensland’s Regional eHealth Project (ReHP), a long-winded drama first touted in 2012 which has officially come to an end at a cost of $34.5 million (at least according to the state’s very useful Digital Projects Dashboard).

Funding was originally obtained in 2012 from a federal government hospital investment grant, although the project itself only really kicked off in 2015, with the aim of building a primary and community care-focused eHealth solution for about 58 clinics and small hospitals in the Cairns, Cape York and Torres Strait regions.

Pulse+IT has been following this story since 2012 and we always got the impression that the project won the funding more through luck than a strong business case, and the actual plan on how the system would be developed and rolled out was a little murky. A tender for a clinical information system was eventually released in 2016, with 28 vendors putting up their hands. In 2017, it was awarded to ISA Healthcare Solutions, which markets the MMEx solution first developed for rural and remote healthcare by the University of Western Australia. ISA having rolled MMEx out on northern Queensland’s Palm Island in 2016 and a lot of the required integration work with Queensland Health systems already done, everything looked hunky dory.

Not so much, it seems. In 2019, the two FNQ hospital and health services announced they were parting ways with ISA, and turned instead to Telstra Health, which had missed out during the original tender. Having just completed a roll-out of its Communicare system for the Western Australian Country Health Service, this appeared to be a good option.

Again, perhaps not so much, according to a number of people we have spoken to since the system, known as Regional Information via Electronic Records (RIVeR), went live. The vice president of the public sector Together Queensland union Sandy Donald, who also happens to be an anaesthetist at Cairns Hospital with experience of poor health IT roll-outs, tells us that the doctors he represents are not very happy at all and want to stop using the system. The health services involved and Telstra Health dispute this, but it appears that the saga goes on.

In other news, the Australian Financial Review is reporting that specialist medical practice software vendor Genie Solutions is being prepared to list on the Australian Securities Exchange. Genie was founded by GP Paul Carr in 1995 and the Carr family still has an interest in the company after fund manager IFM Investors took a majority stake in 2017 for over $50 million. Genie is a quality firm with a large share of the specialist practice market, and good growth potential for both its cloud and on-premise software, so we’ll be interested to see how much it raises.

And The Australian newspaper is reporting that HealthEngine is also preparing an initial public offering, estimating its worth at about $100m. HealthEngine, which still styles itself as a start-up even though it was launched in 2006, has previously seen small investments from Telstra and Seven West, along with US venture capital firm Sequoia. It also has good growth potential although $100m is perhaps a touch high considering there isn’t a huge amount of money in appointment bookings, but considering the silly money that is around at the moment for health and technology stocks, it might be worth a plunge.

And speaking of silly money, last week’s Pulse+IT blog about the upcoming sale of MedicalDirector got a lot of interest. We asked in our poll if you thought MedicalDirector could possibly sell for the astronomical sums of between $300m-$500m. Most readers said no – 79 per cent – but a fifth bravely voted yes. As we said, there is a lot of silly money floating around.

Finally, we had a browse of an analysis by US news magazine Newsweek of the best 250 smart hospitals around the world published this week. Not surprisingly, US hospitals took out the top spots, with European hospitals taking up most of the balance. Australia got seven in the top 250, with Royal Melbourne listed the highest.

  • 107: Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • 110: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • 184: Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred
  • 201: Melbourne’s The Alfred
  • 238: Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra
  • 246: Perth’s Sir Charles Gairdner
  • 250: Gold Coast University Hospital

We admit we’re a bit surprised that Peter Mac got a guernsey and Royal Children’s didn’t, and the inclusion of WA’s Charlies is odd when Fiona Stanley missed out. No Royal Adelaide either, and no New Zealand hospital made the list. However, Southern District Health Board is looking to invest heavily in digital for its new $1.4 billion Dunedin Hospital, which is planned to open in two phases between 2025 and 2028. SDHB is currently on the lookout for ideas on all matter of health IT through an RFI process, so get your info in before it closes at the end of the month.

That brings us to our poll question for this week:

Are the Newsweek smart hospital rankings on the mark?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.

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