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Queensland Health will need $440 million to replace obsolete patient system

by Pallavi Singhal •
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Queensland’s Auditor-General has recommended that the State’s Health Department give priority to replacing its soon-to-be unsupported Hospital Based Corporate Information System (HBCIS), at an estimated project cost of $440 million.

In his latest report to parliament, Auditor General Andrew Greaves revealed that the patient administration system, used across State health facilities since 1991, will no longer be supported once the current contract expires in 2015. However a state-wide rollout of a new system is likely to take five to seven years to develop and implement.

Queensland Health says it is currently refining a business case to support its funding submission for the replacement of HBCIS.

The need to replace the system was initially identified as early as 2007, in Queensland Health’s 2007-08 budget submission. At the time the estimated cost of the project was approximately $250 million to $350 million.

Despite the Auditor’s recommendations for haste, however, securing funding for the project is likely to be difficult amidst tight fiscal conditions and stringent savings measures that are currently in place to abate Queensland’s debt.

The HBCIS is currently used to register and manage patient identity, provide information to other local and enterprise systems, and for management and reporting purposes.

The system is a foundational component of the Queensland eHealth program’s clinical, administrative and integrated electrical medical record (ieMR) platform, and its uncertain future could have significant run-on effects, according to the report’s findings.

“Delays in replacing HBCIS may result in system unavailability and impact on the implementation of the ieMR,” it says.

The ieMR system is being rolled out as part of Tranche 2 of Queensland Health’s eHealth Program. Once complete, the platform will manage clinical records and the sharing of patient information across Queensland health facilities.

Queensland Health has awarded Cerner Corporation three contracts to date for work on the ieMR, with a total value in excess of $100 million, following a controversial closed tender process.

A third, currently unfunded tranche of the eHealth Program has also been planned, covering a state-wide rollout of the ieMR and an expansion of the system enabling it to replace the outdated HBCIS.

The Audit has also highlighted a number of delays in the implementation of the eHealth Program, which commenced in 2007. It says the delays can be attributed to procurement, contract and staff recruitment problems.

Both Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 of the Program are two years behind their original scheduled completion dates. Tranche 1, which covers the state-wide implementation of 15 clinical and administrative systems, is now due to be completed by June 2013. Tranche 2, covering the delivery of the ieMR system to nine hospitals, has a revised completion date of 2015.

However the Program remains within its budget of $466 million, with a total expenditure of $249 million at 30 June 2012.

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For more information, please contact the Editor (02) 9955 9896.

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