SA Health may scrap over-budget health app

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SA Health may scrap over-budget health app

Extra funds aren't turning around sick EPAS patient admin system.

South Australia’s troubled electronic patient administration system (EPAS) is set to be overhauled or discontinued altogether after an independent review confirmed longstanding concerns with the rollout.

In an update on the review into the system that kicked off in June, SA Health revealed that continuing the current implementation approach had been “ruled out” by the review panel.

Chief executive Chris McGowan said the review's diagnostic phase had confirmed concerns with the rollout of the system, which remains accessible by only 25 percent of the state's hospital beds.

EPAS has suffered numerous problems since it was introduced by the former Weatherill Labor government in 2013, including numerous delays, usability issues and cost overruns.

The state was most recently forced to spend another $49 million to upgrade the system, bringing the total cost of the project to over $470 million. The project was originally budgeted at $408 million.

However around 75 percent of that revised budget has now been spent.

Next steps

Despite concerns with the rollout of the system, the review exposed “strong views” from users about returning to paper-based systems. The review panel has ruled out a return to those manual processes.

The panel will now consider a range of other option for the system that could change as the consultation phase progresses.

“The independent expert panel will now look at options regarding the future of the EPAS rollout and will be consulting with stakeholders on the options,” McGowan said.

“The expert panel needs to determine if the issues raised with EPAS can be addressed adequately in order for it to meet the expectations of users in the future.”

Early options being considered include continuing with a significantly altered statewide system - dubbed EPAS Mark II - or discontinuing any further rollout of EPAS and returning to the market for a new solution.

Other options on the table are finishing the rollout of the altered system at the Central Adelaide and Southern Adelaide Local Health Networks before assessing the requirements of remaining networks or procuring a "fit-for-purpose" patient administration system to sit alongside the preferred clinical electronic medical record.

However if the system is retained, it will require a significant update.

Speaking with ABC Radio Adelaide on Thursday about the early findings, McGowan said the current version of EPAS was "quite superseded".

"I can’t quite remember the numbers but we’re on version two and there’s a version seven around or something like that, so it needs to be updated,” he said.

He also noted that although the Allscripts system was "far more complex" than other leading system like Spectic and Certern, the issues with EPAS largely stem from the way SA Health implemented the system.

“I think the way we’ve executed [EPAS] has been poor,” he said, adding that countries like Singapore had been able to implement similar Allscripts system well.

“So it is able to be done well but it needs to be executed and implemented well.”

The final review is expected to be handed to the government before December.

Health minister Stephen Wade said the review's report "vindicates" longstanding concerns of the new Marshall Liberal government.

“I look forward to the taskforce’s final review and the implementation of an electronic records system that works for clinicians and is safe for patients,” he said.

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