More power to Commissioner Garling

NSW Health IT in disarray

SPECIAL commissioner Peter Garling has prescribed a massive dose of IT to fix NSW’s troubled public hospitals, and recommended a watchdog oversee e-health.

He has demanded the provision of critical infrastructure, hospital and community information systems and a statewide e-health record system within four years – not the present eight to 15 year timeframe for completion.

These remarks are particularly apt:

To achieve his goals, Mr Garling has called for an independent Bureau of Health Information — separate from NSW Health — to be established to access, interpret and report on all data relating to safety and quality of patient care; this information is then to be regularly re-issued to individual units.

“The information collected is to be directed to how well the patient has been treated, not to process-driven, often politically-driven data which make administrators more comfortable, but not the patients,” he said.

“The adoption of (upgraded) IT within four years is necessary if NSW Health is to provide, safe, quality care for patients. Just as a railway system becomes dangerous for passengers when the signal network is old and out of date, so too a public hospital system becomes dangerous for patients when information about risky practices is lost in the clerical maze.

“Passengers may never be aware of the signals system, but their lives depend on it. The lives of patients depend upon clinicians seeing the risks and eliminating them.

The more I understand about IT the more appalled I am at how some of our crucial social programs are lagging behind in modernising their database integration and the many time-saving and efficiency-raising applications that can be installed on a modern system. I wonder whether Garling’s remarks about there being no big ribbon-cutting ceremony that happens when we get the IT infrastructure right is one of the reasons that IT keeps on getting overlooked.

Categories: health, Politics, technology


6 replies

  1. Not that I disagree – I’m always appalled by how much paper is involved with any healthcare experience – but my experience in large beauracracies is that installing IT that works in the whole organisation is an order of magnitude or two harder than doing something for a small business.
    If he said four years – it’ll take at least six to get it working properly.

  2. The NHS IT isn’t doing all that well.

  3. The NHS IT isn’t doing all that well.

  4. My heatlh care IT experience is that they get a new database and everyone is excited, but the people who use the databases most intensively, ie. admin staff, don’t get PC upgrades to cope. So the old PCs can be heard chugging and puffing trying to keep up with the new software. False economy really, considering how many staff hours are taken up by waiting for the database to process a report.

  5. Name one “Big Bang” IT solution anywhere, but especially in health, that has worked anywhere.

  6. I don’t think he’s asking for one Big Bang, is he? Upgrading several interconnecting systems to have a better integrated database and have a dedicated oversight body on IT in health-care strikes me as a multi-pronged approach.
    My husband’s been involved in a few very successful system roll-outs as a business analyst, although the ones that have worked best have been for enterprises with buckets of money and a clear commercial goal. I know his experience when consulting for bureaucracies has been more frustrating, with less money and more sections fighting for what there is.
    I particularly take Kate’s point about past failures to upgrade the end-user hardware to match any sparkly new software. I wish I could say that such false economies surprise me, but no.

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