South Australia’s EPAS system has been described as a “failure” by the state government, with Health Minister Stephen Wade claiming the operation of the flagship Royal Adelaide Hospital and other hospitals are being impaired by the long-troubled electronic health record.
The partial EPAS implementation at RAH has led to the latest embarrassing revelation, with The Australian reporting that it is costing the state $192,000 a month to store paper patient records off-site and deliver thousands to the hospital each day.
According to a SA Health spokesperson, the new $2.4 billion hospital’s floors can’t withstand the weight of the paper.
An inherited problem, EPAS lurched from controversy to budget blow-out under the previous government, including claims by clinicians that it compromised the quality of care.
“The new Royal Adelaide Hospital was designed as a ‘paper-light’ facility but due to significant problems with the Labor Government’s electronic patient records system, the hospital remains reliant on paper records,” the spokesman said.
“On a daily basis, approximately 2000 patient files are delivered to the hospital and at any given time there are approximately 7000 patient files in circulation or stored on-site.
“The rest of the hospital’s paper records are stored off-site. The annual cost of this service is $2.3 million. The rollout of EPAS has been put on hold … the review will help determine how to resolve the problems created by the failure of EPAS.”
[Read more: SA Health launches taskforce after claims of lost and delayed pathology results caused by new IT system | Captain courageous: New SA Health head announced to bring 'stability' and oversee EPAS review]
The EPAS system, built by Allscripts, was designed to provide an EHR for every patient admitted to a South Australian public hospital or health service. First introduced at Noarlunga Hospital in August 2013, it was rolling out across metropolitan and country hospitals, GP Plus Health Care centres and SA Ambulance headquarters until the incoming government halted the RAH implementation in March and announced an independent review.
“EPAS is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule,” the Health Minister said on Sunday.
“Until the problems with EPAS are fixed, the operation of the RAH and other hospitals will continue to be impaired.”
Concerns from clinicians have also been ongoing, and in August the state’s AMA claimed that if EPAS were a car it would be recalled. The doctor’s lobby group said a survey of medical staff suggested the system was “not fit for purpose” and had led to pathology mix-ups, prescribing mishaps and difficulty in finding records when they are urgently needed.
Originally budgeted at $408 million in 2011, the cost of EPAS has blown out to $471 million over the 10 years to 2021.
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