Victoria rolls out $323m ICT health upgrade

Stage one of Victoria's multimillion dollar IT project to remove the administrative burden of delivering health services will go live next month.

Dubbed HealthSmart, the project is part of the Victorian Health Information Technology Strategy which received $323.5 million funding to remove obsolete, aged and automate clinical processes.

The director of the Office of Health Information Systems, within the Department of Human Services Victoria, Fiona Wilson, said that final contract negotiations are currently under way to implement stage one of the four-year project in November.

Citing the department as a "large and complex beast", Wilson said it employs about 12,000 people directly and more than 80,000 people indirectly through organisations such as hospitals and aged care facilities, ambulance services and community service agencies in nine rural and metropolitan regions.

Speaking at an IT Health Forum in Sydney last week, Wilson said the department has 8000 networked PCs and 300 servers at more than 120 sites, along with the funded sector which has 30,000 PCs and 1200 servers over 1000 sites.

Admitting that the health sector has been a slow adopter of technology, Wilson said 60 per cent of large hospitals in Victoria are currently relying on obsolete patient, client and financial management systems, and 60 per cent of departmental PCs are more than three years old.

"Agencies are absolutely dependent on their systems, and we were finding a limited capability to link systems within or across the agencies, because the systems are old. There is an incredible amount of replication and very little sharing of data with numerous discrete and replicated systems.

"The main driver of the HealthSmart strategy is the recognition that ICT should increase the quality and safety of care and improve health outcomes," Wilson said.

The main components of the HealthSmart project include the ability to conduct electronic medication ordering, electronic results reporting to wipe out the replication of lab tests, electronic ordering of pathology, radiology and cardiology services, and electronic scheduling for specialist outpatient visits.

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