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South Australia to dump Labor’s controversial medical records system, EPAS

South Australia to dump Labor’s controversial medical records system, EPAS

Independent review finds program was centrally driven, poorly implemented and rolled out IT elements that were not 'fit-for-purpose'

Credit: Dreamstime

The South Australian government will roll out a new electronic medical records system for the state’s hospitals after what it says is the former Labor government’s ‘failed enterprise patient management system (EPAS) debacle’.

The Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said an independent review into the EPAS has recommended a fundamental reconstruction of the medical records program and that the EPAS brand should be dropped.

The review found that the EPAS program was centrally driven, poorly implemented and rolled out IT elements that were not ‘fit-for-purpose.’

“One of the key findings is that the program was rolled out without a strong consensus from doctors and nurses and without properly engaging the software provider,” Minister Wade said in a statement.

“It just doesn’t make sense to lock out clinicians – the very people who have to use the system, and the software provider – the people with experience making the system work.

“This is just another example of the former Labor government not engaging clinicians and the taxpayers of South Australia paying the price. This isn’t just minor error or oversight. It cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

More than $320 million has already been spent on the EPAS which is less than a third of the way through its rollout. Around 80 per cent of the budget has already been spent, Wade added.

The independent panel’s report included 36 recommendations, all of which have been ‘fully accepted or accepted in principle’ by the SA government.

The panel recommended the creation of an SA Health Digital Strategy; introducing governance reforms to devolve responsibility for implementation and configuration to LHNs and clinicians; and taking action to improve Sunrise EMR and Allscripts PAS software solutions and implementation.

It also recommended the government focus on two exemplar sites, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Mount Gambier Hospital, to implement the ‘Sunrise’ solution that applies the review’s proposed approach. In addition, any future decisions to implement the Sunrise EMR and Allscripts PAS should be contingent on user acceptance at these sites, the panel said.

Finally, it asked that the government improve the implementation approach and post go-live support regardless of which solution is implemented.

“While there are limitations with the Allscripts product, the bigger issues were with the configuration and the implementation,” Minister Wade said.

“The lack of consultation led to the implementation of a system that’s clunky and cumbersome, doesn’t meet the needs of our medical staff and is in need of a major overhaul. We want an electronic records system that improves patient outcomes rather than undermines them,” he added.

The Sunrise software rollout is expected to be completed at the RAH and Mount Gambier Hospital in 2020 and within a budget of $421 million.

A new program board will oversee the project and will be led by the chair of the independent review panel, Shane Solomon.

South Australia's EPAS has come under fire in recent years. In late 2016, SA Health chief information officer, Bill Le Blanc faced criticism from medical unions and the media after a system glitch caused an outage in the EPAS.

A further two outages followed and on a Tuesday morning in November that year, a story in the Adelaide's The Advertiser claimed that 'EPAS fails will be fatal.' 

At the time, Le Blanc hit back of critics of the system, pointing to hospital safety audits which he said reveal that “in a paper-based world where doctors are writing on script pads”, one in 20 of all prescriptions are incorrect.

The full review can be found here.

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Tags South Australiaepaselectronic medical records system

More about AustraliaBillRoyal Adelaide HospitalSA HealthSolomonSunrise

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