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Govt junks $1 million patient safety software, waits for EPAS

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SA Health spent $1 million on software to ensure serious illnesses don’t go undiagnosed, but never installed it, InDaily can reveal.

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SA Health has bought, but not implemented, ‘results tracking’ software, designed to ensure that medical tests that show abnormalities, such as cancer, are followed up by a doctor in every case.

A source inside the department told InDaily that when a person is “attending an (outpatient) clinic, having maybe just an x-ray done … if that patient doesn’t arrive for follow-up and there’s an abnormality in there, like a spot or something on their lung, that may get missed”.

“Patients don’t always turn up for appointments, and if doctors see something that’s not normal and it gets flagged as not normal, they will make sure the patient comes back,” the source said.

“But because we don’t have an escalation process, there’s no way to say if someone’s looked at them or if they haven’t.

“Most of the patients will come back – it’s really only the patients that don’t turn up for their appointment that won’t get that result.”

An SA Health spokesperson conceded the department had purchased the software, but said that it had contained “bugs and performance issues” when it was trialled in 2012.

“A 2012 pilot of the OACIS results tracking module highlighted a number of software bugs and performance issues,” the spokesperson said.

“As OACIS will be retired when the EPAS rollout is complete, we decided not to proceed further with implementing this module.”

InDaily understands that SA Health has extended its contract with OACIS until 2019.

The department spokesperson told InDaily “results tracking is a priority for SA Health and will be implemented through the EPAS rollout”.

The EPAS has suffered several of its own performance issues – prompting the State Government to halt its roll-out mid-last year for what Health Minister Jack Snelling described as “a re-think”.

The system has come under fire from doctors over the past two years, who have argued it slows down patient care and puts patients at risk.

Primitive versions of results tracking exist in the state’s public health, but a consistent electronic system which “escalates” unexamined test results until they are followed up is not switched on.

A doctor who spoke to InDaily – on the condition his name would not be published – said that “there is always that risk” of an important test result not being followed up because outpatient clinics and other health services lack a results tracking system.

He said the danger was particularly acute in the case of patients who were discharged before the arrival of their test results.

Yesterday, InDaily revealed claims by health insiders that SA Health had purchased an upgrade to OACIS featuring all of the functions performed by EPAS.

SA Health rejected the claims, stating that it has “never purchased an upgrade to OACIS that includes all the functionality of EPAS”.

OACIS operates in both online and offline versions in South Australia.

The online version is referred to as vOACIS. InDaily has been told the upgrade, featuring the medication management and clinical documentation and functions of EPAS, was purchased, but not switched on, for the online version.

The upgrade would have operated using the OACIS model of consolidating data from various systems onto one platform, while EPAS is designed to work as a stand-alone system.

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