The protracted period of uncertainty over the replacement of Australia’s outdated bowel cancer screening register has finally been lifted, after the Department of Health issued a firm go-live date for the second-half of its troubled national cancer register being built by Telstra.
The major component of the $220 million single national record for the screening of cervical and bowel cancers has been languishing without a go-live for the last two years, after a complex data migration process stalled the original launch date.
The register was first intended to be ready in time to support both the national bowel and cervical cancer screening programs in March and March 2017.
Two years on and only the cervical cancer component of the register – which went live in December 2017, nine months later than originally planned – is operational.
But the department has now revealed it is planning to shift the bowel cancer register to the consolidated platform in November 2019.
A Health spokesperson told iTnews the migration will involve transferring data from the bowel cancel register held by the Department of Human Services to the new register.
The department is currently working to develop a detailed transition and migration plan for the transition and coordinate when that cut-over will occur, the spokesperson said.
In response to questions on notice from senate estimates, the department said development and testing of the bowel cancer screening register would be finished by August.
Additional functionality in the form of a BI tool will also be added to the cervical cancer register from April to improve reporting, according to the spokesperson.
However some bowel cancer screening register functionality “deemed as not critical” has been postponed until March 2020.
This includes “direct online access to the NCSR by Healthcare Providers and Participants, enabling participants to receive correspondence via electronic means rather than by letter and the implementation of additional Business Intelligence capability for relevant program stakeholders”.
The response to questions on notice also shows that $3.6 million in payments to Telstra is tied to the successful completion of the register and the go-live.
The department has been withholding payments to Telstra since the delays began so that it is only paid once work is complete.
As at January 29, Telstra had received just $18.3 million of the $220 million for more than two-and-a-half year’s work.
The emergence of a firm go-live date comes after the department revealed it was unlikely to axe the $220 million contract with Telstra for the build due to the “significant cost and impact” of doing so.
It goes some way to explain the department’s explanation that terminating the contract was “not warranted given the remediation and progress achieved last financial year”.