Out-dated IT putting the sick at risk

Queensland patients face falling through the cracks between hospitals and GP clinics because of out-dated IT systems.
Queensland patients face falling through the cracks between hospitals and GP clinics because of out-dated IT systems. Valerie Horton

AGING computer systems are putting regional and rural patients at risk.

Sick residents are paying the price as doctors at the state's public hospitals face mounds of paperwork and miss-matched software systems.

It's so bad that medics often have to remember up to 10 passwords and the technology dates back to the era of floppy disks - the 1980s.

AMA Queensland president Shaun Rudd says the problem is state-wide and patients face falling through the cracks between hospitals and GP clinics because of out-dated IT systems.

He said the computer systems failed to meet standards set in overseas hospitals including those in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific.

Dr Rudd said systems had been patched and updated over the years, but this was costly and prone to errors.

He said an integrated electronic health record system allowing GPs and hospital specialists to share patient notes seamlessly was a key priority for the recently elected Palaszczuk Government.

"A lot of the IT systems in the hospitals have been around for a long time," Dr Rudd said.

"They've got the situation where information technology in the emergency department doesn't play in with other information technology in the hospital.

"The electronic referrals that general practitioners send in are long and a little bit complicated, but the discharge summaries that come back are extremely badly formatted and they've got a lot of useless info in them."

Dr Rudd said the region's patients could be hit hard if the systems were not upgraded.

"It makes transfer of care not as good as it should be and there are chances that the patients may fall between the cracks when it comes down to primary and secondary care."

Paper-based notes in GP clinics are a thing of the past, but Dr Rudd said public hospital clinicians were struggling under mounds of paperwork.

"The biggest drawback is you don't have electronically integrated notes so that you're still playing with large volumes of paper," he said.

"When you look at general practice, we haven't had paper-based notes for many years.

"The hospitals need to come into the 21st century."

Health Minister Cameron Dick said there was no doubt hospital IT systems needed work.

"I acknowledge that our hospitals and health services could benefit from improvements to information and communication technologies, especially where they improve efficiency and patient care," Mr Dick said.

"I am interested in proven solutions that are cost effective and recommended by end users of the technology." 



  • AMA Queensland says an integrated electronic health record is needed across the Queensland public health sector to ensure patients do not fall through the cracks between hospitals and GP clinics.
  • Queensland Health's IT system considered worse than systems operating in the Middle East and many Asia Pacific countries.
  • Doctors often need to use up to 10 different passwords to access multiple outdated and clunky IT systems from the 1980s.

SOURCE: AMA Queensland

Topics:  health hospital technology

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