Reason behind latest health IT bungle revealed
MAJOR problems plaguing the state's electronic medical record system have occurred as a result of software company Cerner making changes out of the US without advising Queensland Health, leaked documents reveal.
A ministerial briefing note prepared after the integrated electronic medical record system crashed for hours at every Queensland hospital that uses it in September shows routine updates initiated out of the US have resulted in disaster management procedures having to be activated.
Between May 2017 and October 2019, 38 "priority 1 and 2" incidents relating to Queensland's digital hospital system were logged.
More than three-quarters of them occurred as a result of Cerner "making changes, completing routine updates or the insufficient monitoring of their infrastructure and/or suite of ieMR applications".
"Some of these incidents have occurred due to a lack of visibility from Cerner Australia to global changes that are initiated out of the United States," the briefing says.
"These changes have resulted in major impacts to Queensland's digital hospitals, including activation of code yellow emergency and disaster management procedures, reduction to clinical service delivery activity and adverse media coverage."
Queensland Health workers were angry they were unable to access "time sensitive" clinical information during the September outage, which the department said at the time was due to a planned vendor upgrade.
In the ministerial briefing note, prepared for Health Minister Steven Miles ahead of a tense meeting with Cerner officials, the department said it had developed plans to improve the "visibility, early detection and proactive resolution" of future incidents involving the ieMR.
As part of that, Cerner had agreed that all changes to the system would be accompanied by a plan to Queensland Health at least one week beforehand outlining testing activities and provision of "appropriate evidence".
Cerner had also committed to deploying a team to Queensland Health as a routine response to major incidents.
"This Cerner Corporation team to have full access to its resources in Australia and overseas (including its Incident Response Centre) to ensure timely and expert response," the briefing says.
The ieMR is used at 14 of the state's public hospitals, including the Queensland Children's Hospital, the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast university hospitals, Ipswich, Logan and Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Mr Miles paused its rollout mid-last year until 2021 after a string of problems emerged.
At a meeting in October, he's understood to have demanded Cerner improve its performance, particularly given Queensland Health is the software company's biggest Australian customer.
"He made his expectations of Cerner and their US parent company very clear - safety always comes first, any planned outages must only occur at times convenient to Queensland Health and upgrades were to be communicated to hospitals well in advance," a spokeswoman for Mr Miles said.
"There has been a marked improvement in ieMR planned outage management since."