THE Department of Health says its rollout of a modernised patient administration system is on track, four years after the upgrade was given the green light.
The system has been implemented at Fremantle, Swan Districts and Albany hospitals, with Fiona Stanley next in line.
It’s expected all Perth metropolitan hospitals will be upgraded to the system, WebPAS, within the next three years.
But the process has not been all smooth sailing.
The auditor general criticised the department in October 2010 for taking eight years to even confirm an upgrade. Contracts were signed in 2009.
The investigation found the department had previously failed to appropriately test the market for a new system and opted to exercise its right to an upgrade from the current supplier without going to a tender.
The web-based system is supplied by iSoft, with global information technology company CSC responsible for the rollout, which kicked off in 2011.
The need for increased functionality in health information technology systems is founded on patient safety.
Last year a study, which examined prescribing errors at the Joondalup Health Campus and Royal Perth Hospital and published in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians, revealed more than 90 per cent of hand-written medication charts contained an error.
The answer to eliminating errors is the introduction of electronic systems built on the foundation of an administration system where patients’ details and records are held.
Andrew Robertson, acting chief information officer for the Health Information Network (WA health's information technology department), says the interaction between patient administration systems and meal- ordering systems provided a good example of the need for the technology.
"We need to be able to provide information to (those providing the meals) about not giving a meal to patient X becasue they either have an allergy or they can't have a particular food." Dr Robertson said. The state's hospitals have been running an ageing system with limited levels of integration.
The upgrade to WebPAS is intended to improve the functionality so, eventually, administration will be undertaken without the need for paper.
“We’ve had a few issues and we’ve had to make some minor changes but no showstoppers,” Dr Robertson told Business News.
“Ultimately, when it’s fully rolled out we will have one of the best patient administration systems given the area; it will be rolled out everywhere from Kununurra to Augusta.”
The Health Information Network receives $60 million in capital funding annually to undertake all of its work – the patient administration upgrade forms just part of that.
The cost of implementing entirely new upgrades across the board has been estimated at $100 million.
This has led the network to introduce systems on a progressive basis.
“What we have to do is apportion and prioritise,” Dr Robertson said.
“We’d all love to get it all in within a year but the reality is there are other priorities and systems that we have to continue to review.”
CSC has a long and controversial history in the United Kingdom, where it has been attempting to roll out patient administration systems with varying degrees of success.
The company declined to comment on the rollout in WA.
“There is a cost to us rolling out these systems so it will be dependent on the financial budgets that we get but we’ll roll it out as quickly as we can within those financial restraints,” he said.