Monday, February 21, 2011

Is HealthSMART for the Chop? If So, What Happens Next?

The following popped up in the Age today.

Last rites for health IT system

Kate Hagan

February 21, 2011

HEALTH Department staff fear Victoria's $360 million health technology program is being shut down after being told that no contracts will be renewed for people working on it.

The news delivered to staff late last week follows an admission last month by Health Minister David Davis that he was considering abandoning the HealthSMART program, which is five years late and $35 million over budget.

He described HealthSMART - which is supposed to link computer systems in hospitals and give medical staff immediate access to patient records - as ''the myki of the health system''.

Mr Davis said contracts were not being renewed for people ''working on aspects of the program that have been completed or are nearing completion''. But a source close to the project said dozens of staff crucial to the program would be axed from the HealthSMART office in the coming months.

''In reality they could say you've got four weeks to leave, we're closing down … but what they're doing is not renewing anyone,'' he said.

''A lot of people work on one or two-year contracts which are always up for renewal. This time they won't be. The people who are going are really valuable and whatever the new government decides to do, that experience is being lost forever.''

Mr Davis said he had not yet made a decision on Health-SMART but was assessing all aspects of the program ''to determine its effectiveness and how we capitalise on the sunk costs and ensure the state has the most effective possible health [technology] system''.

He said no budget funds had been allocated for several years for the program, launched in 2003 by the former Labor government.

''There has been no budget-level decision to fund [the program] through into the future. It's been done through contingencies at departmental and hospital level,'' Mr Davis said.

HealthSMART was originally supposed to introduce clinical applications such as access to test results and medication details in all major Victorian hospitals. Those features have been introduced at just two hospitals - Box Hill and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear - and are due to be introduced at two others - the Austin and Frankston.

A further six hospitals ''are in various stages of pre-implementation activity for the clinical system''.

More here:

Now this story has been running for a little while:

and I have provided commentary there and here:

The comments below this article make very useful reading indeed.

It should be noted that as far back as 2008 the Victorian Auditor General said all was not well with the Program. See here:

To me the major issue that now faces the Health Minister is just what can be usefully salvaged and how Victoria can then be positioned to move forward with some clinical solutions it is widely agreed are actually needed.

Another, not so quite obvious issue, is the closeness of the relationship between some in NEHTA and some in the HealthSMART Program and how some of NEHTA’s initiatives may be impacted by a change of course in Victoria.

There is no doubt that sorting out the wreckage, if that what it comes to, is going to be a complex and expensive business that will need to be done on an organisation by organisation basis.

This is really all rather sad I must say. I wonder will the NSW Program suffer a similar fate after the election on March 26, 2011 in NSW.

What a mess!



Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether it is for political expediency to clear the decks and pass the blame or not it is fair to say that at last we have one Health Minister with the courage to act decisively on Victoria's health IT disaster.

As for NEHTA. It has nailed its flag to the HealthSmart mast in the hope that HealthSmart will drag NEHTA out of its own dilemma. Anyone with a modicum of IQ should be able to deduce that HealthSmart will no longer be available to NEHTA as a camouflage behind which it can hide its own incompetence.

It logically follows that NEHTA will now need to find another friend in another State to help prop it up. David Davis has a big mess to sort out and NEHTA isn't going to help him one iota. Fortunately he is smart enough to see that.

Anonymous said...

I wonder where all those 'technical and other' health wizz kids who leave HealthSmart will turn up. Any guesses? NEHTA?

Anonymous said...

NEHTA is as good a guess as any, although APHRA could do with a little bit of 'help' and so too could DOHA! They'd feel quite at home in any one of those places!