Gold Coast Medical Records System by Cerner 'Inadequate & Dangerous'

Stephanie Bedo | Gold Coast | July 6, 2012

Senior doctors say Gold Coast Health's new multimillion dollar electronic medical record system is 'inadequate and dangerous' and could put patients' lives at risk. Doctors have complained about the system, saying some patient documents are missing, it has log-in problems and 10-minute delays in accessing critical information. Gold Coast Health was the first region in the state to move to electronic record-keeping, rolled out progressively from October last year.

Queensland Health spent about $200 million on the electronic medical record roll-out last year, which was delayed by 12 months because of problems with the software provider. The system replicates current patient charts, with forms scanned in and clinical notes normally handwritten entered directly into the computer. Hospital cardiologist Dr Greg Aroney raised concerns about the system at a Griffith University forum on the future of health on the Gold Coast this week. "Our system is totally inadequate and dangerous," Dr Aroney said. Dr Aroney said senior doctors had been discussing the problems over email for four months.

Gold Coast Health Clinical Council chairman Nick Buckmaster admitted they would have preferred to have 'more functionality' with the system. "It's a very bare-bones system and although it does many things reasonably well, it does some things particularly poorly," Mr Buckmaster said. Mr Buckmaster said they were struggling to 'go forward' and fix the system because of funding problems.

Open Health News' Take: 

This doesn't seem to be the only problem with the Cener installation in Australia. According to an article titled "Queensland Health Accused of Bias Towards IT Supplier Cerner Corporation," there may have been favoritism in the contract award. According to Koren Helbig,  "Confidential papers show a [Queensland] Health boss already was in talks with software company Cerner Corporation at least a year before consultants were hired to conduct an external investigation into potential suppliers." According to Helbig, "The electronic medical records project was even given the codename "Project Mango" to avoid constantly naming Cerner in official correspondence, the papers said."

In addition to Australia, Cerner is also making the wrong kinds of news stories in the United States and the United Kingdom. The June 29 issue of Computerworld UK has an article titled "US hospital takes legal action against Cerner - why it matters to the NHS." The article details how a small hospital in Kansas, USA, is taking legal action against Cerner for a botched implementation. The article states "Joel Schectman, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, has researched the case of a small hospital in Kansas that is blaming Cerner for the failure of an electronic medical records project."

According to the article, "The Girard Medical Center is a small rural hospital that takes in mainly uninsured patients and the elderly. Its executives wanted an electronic medical record system to improve the sharing of information with its clinic offshoots and to claim federal incentives. But, says the Wall Street Journal, Girard spent 18 months and more than $1m without being closer to having electronic medical records. It is blaming its supplier Cerner for the failure."

Computerworld UK adds that "Cerner is one of the world's largest suppliers of e-record systems. In the UK Cerner is supplied by BT under the National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. It also supplies NHS trusts directly." -- Roger A. Maduro, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Open Health News.