Victoria aims for more open ICT strategy
The newly formed Victorian Information and Communications Technology Advisory Committee (VITAC) has released a draft strategy (PDF) describing how the state government should manage and use ICT to better provide government services.
The strategy recommends that the government engage more closely with the ICT sector and move away from customised products in favour of existing market offerings.
VITAC was formed in June this year following the release of a devastating report by the Victorian Ombudsman in late 2011 on 10 major ICT projects that experienced budget or deadline overruns or a combination of both.
The subsequent fallout from the Ombudsman's report led to the Victorian government cancelling several programs, including the $323 million HealthSMART program, an ambitious project to roll out common eHealth infrastructure throughout Victoria's public health services.
This included implementing iSOFT's (now CSC) i.PM patient administration system and Cerner's clinical information system in its hospitals, as well as InterSystems' TrakCare platform for community health agencies.
The Ombudsman, George Brouwer, said in his report that poor planning had handicapped the HealthSMART program.
“The project costing and timelines were ambitious and the Department of Health (DOH) seriously underestimated the size of the task,” he wrote. “The project inevitably ran over budget by about 35 per cent and has taken more than seven years to deliver only a partial implementation of the core clinical application.”
While he did reserve some criticism for vendors, he laid most of the blame at the feet of the Victorian Department of Health and its planning process.
Industry sources have told Pulse+IT that the main problem facing HealthSMART was change management, with each health service or district requiring customisation of all or parts of each system to suit current practice.
This was borne out by witnesses at the recent inquiry by the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee into effective decision-making for the delivery of significant infrastructure projects.
CSC managing director James Rice and operations manager Gary White told the inquiry that while the company had fulfilled its contract, the tripartite structure of decision-making had caused major problems.
VITAC's draft strategy sets out objectives and actions focused in three key areas and proposes eight principles to guide ICT decision-making.
“Victoria has experienced some expensive failures in ICT‐enabled business change projects,” the strategy states. “However, such projects are critical for productivity and service delivery reforms. The solution is not to avoid ICT‐enabled projects but to address the past failures through a more rigorous and considered approach.
“Shortcomings in Victoria’s ICT‐enabled project performance have been well documented by the Auditor‐General and Ombudsman. To counter this, projects will now be staged and project assurance is being strengthened. Governance and capability initiatives will also support a significant strengthening of project definition, procurement and delivery.”
It recommends that the government engage with the ICT market early in the procurement lifecycle. “We will avoid being locked into single suppliers by favouring open standards and will be open to any qualified ICT provider regardless of size. Procurement of ICT services will be made more efficient.”
The strategy should also provide guidance to agencies to move away from customised major ICT developments and use existing market offerings with little or no customisation instead.
It singles out for attention successful programs such as the launch of the Better Health Channel mobile app, which recently won a 2012 Australian Mobile Award.
It also uses the primary care partnerships (PCPs) program as a case study into how to improve delivery. According to the draft strategy, PCPs have made it easier for the community to navigate the health system and their achievements are underpinned by effective information sharing.
“The Victorian Service Coordination Practice Manual provides the agreed minimum standard for how agencies work together and includes a consistent approach to obtaining client consent to share information,” it reports.
“Standard information definitions and forms mean agencies can collect and share client and program information efficiently through their information systems. Technical standards based on these agreed practices and definitions have also been developed for software vendors.
“Industry has responded with multiple vendors offering standards-compliant health software at no additional cost to government. The improved processes for information exchange, put in place by PCPs, also position Victoria at the forefront in this area of national eHealth.”
The committee is led by an independent chairman – former South Australian CIO and Ernst & Young consultant Grantly Mailes – with representatives from the Victorian government, including the CIO of the Department of Health, the ICT industry and corporate CIOs.
Public feedback on the draft strategy closes on October 17, with a final report to be presented to the government by December.
Posted in Australian eHealth