Pulse+IT Blog

Continued growth in EMR adoption

It turns out to be nice timing that we ran a poll of readers last week asking if you thought electronic medical records were now an essential technology for acute care services. The vast majority of you did – 91 per cent said yes, just nine per cent saying no – and this week we heard public hospitals are following suit, with about 65 per cent of Australian public hospitals now using one.

Digital health consultancy The Checkley Group's managing director Bruce Pedersen gave one of his now regular round-ups of the state of EMR adoption in Australia at the Sydney leg of the Australasian Institute of Digital Health's mammoth virtual summit this week. Mr Pedersen likes to keep track of who is using what and he noted that Victoria had seen the largest growth in the last two years, boosted by the Epic implementation at the Parkville precinct in Melbourne no doubt.

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.

Test and trace troubles

In a week in which the US hit a milestone and recorded over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, there was far more positive news in these parts as Victoria recorded a full week with no new cases, in a very welcome sign that it has successfully cracked the second wave.

There will still be questions asked about the capacity of its test and trace regime, with the Victorian parliament's legal and social issues committee, chaired by cross-bench MP Fiona Patten, running an inquiry beginning on November 16.

Keep plugging that app

The Australian government's much-vaunted, much-plugged COVIDSafe app came under the spotlight this week as Senate Estimates hearings got under way in Canberra and the opportunity to grill health department officials on their COVID-19 response, including their thoughts on Victoria's contact tracing capabilities, presented itself.

Labor has heavily criticised the app since its release and its seems with good reason, as it doesn't appear to work very well. The opposition overplayed their hand a tad with claims that it had only found two positive contacts at a cost of $70 million, as that figure turned out to be vastly overinflated. Department of Health assistant secretary Caroline Edwards clarified that the app had cost $5 million to develop and maintain, with a further $6.95 million to plug it.

Dodgy data and the COVID response

In last week's blog we took a look at a bit of a bungle over in the UK, where the use of an old version of Excel by Public Health England has been blamed for almost 16,000 positive COVID-19 cases being left off the official list for a week, potentially affecting up to 50,000 people.

The head of the National Health Service's Test and Trace program, Dido Harding, is now being asked to consider her position as the ramifications of the bungle continue. The UK is also struggling with wider aspects of Test and Trace, according to Digital Health News, which reports that just 68 per cent of close contacts of those who had tested positive were able to be reached last week.

A tale of two technologies

The big news this week in digital health was the expansion of Australia's roll out of electronic prescriptions to metropolitan Sydney, following the fast-track implementation in metropolitan Melbourne and then the rest of Victoria as a weapon in that state's battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also this week we saw some rare movement in the secure messaging arena, with a number of clinical information system vendors and secure messaging services now having successfully completed the implementation of new interoperability standards that will hopefully allow clinicians and healthcare organisations to more easily exchange clinical information electronically.

England's little Excel problem

England has not come out smelling of roses in its dealings with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and it didn't get much better last week when it was revealed that the use of an old Excel file format meant almost 16,000 positive cases had been left off a list and up to 50,000 close contacts might have been missed.

The rest of the UK is looking a bit better, both in terms of infection rate and death rate, but when the numbers are combined the UK still has the highest rate of deaths in Europe due to some shocking bungling by its government and a silly error like the one discovered by Public Health England (PHE) has not helped much.

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