National Blood Authority undergoes IT transfusion

Spreadsheets replaced with integrated data management system

More than three years after its establishment as a statutory authority independent from the Department of Health and Ageing's IT infrastructure, the National Blood Authority in Canberra is undertaking a complete refresh of its IT infrastructure including a new data management system to improve its data management capability.

Since its establishment, the NBA has relied on a single server and dated PCs to manage its information, but there was always a plan to overhaul IT to prepare for a national data warehouse that could collate and report blood-related information at a national level.

The authority's deputy general manager, Stephanie Gunn, told Computerworld while there was initially a reliance on Health's systems, it quickly became a priority to develop its own to fulfil the need for information exchange.

"There was a need to improve the purchasing process for blood and blood products [and] we chose a simple standalone, very cheap system to start with," Gunn said. "We took a conscious decision to say the system will last three years to do what we need to do from a procurement perspective."

At the end of the three-year period the system started to struggle and was not coping with the volume of data the NBA now holds.

Due to the complexity of its supply planning, the NBA first put out a tender last year for the development of an integrated data management system (IDMS) which was awarded to Kobald and is in the final stages of production.

With a new IDMS on the way, the NBA required a refresh of its IT infrastructure, for which it released a predefined "shopping list" in the form of a tender earlier this month.

The NBA's tender includes 60 new PCs, 10 new servers, a remote access solution, a new SOE, Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2005, and VoIP infrastructure to enable unified messaging.

Also sought is a more rational telecommunications system which at present spans a number of different providers. VoIP will also make the authority's voice communications more portable as its lease is due to expire in two years.

The NBA's IT and business services manager, Anthony Szell, said this phase in IT development is also aimed at spanning three years, with a specific focus on migrating off spreadsheets onto an proper integrated, online business application and to allow for further extensive, modular, expansion of capability.

"Blood products cost up to $600 million a year and our supply planning for these must have a stable and robust system," Szell said.

With all these projects at hand, Szell is confident of completing the transformation by April 13 this year.

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