CRITIC: Dr Horst Herb describes the new software introduced to hospitals as unusable and dangerous.
CRITIC: Dr Horst Herb describes the new software introduced to hospitals as unusable and dangerous.

Software hard work for doctors

SOFTWARE being introduced to hospital emergency departments by NSW Health is being described by local doctors as ‘appalling’ and the consultation process with NSW Health IT staff as ‘insulting and dysfunctional’.

One clear voice on the issue is Dorrigo doctor Horst Herb, who worked with Electronic Medical Records in both Germany and Norway and was previously a professional software developer.

“I was keen to see eMR implemented in NSW...but after two weeks of conscious effort using Cerner FirstNet to record my patients’ information I came to the conclusion the system was not only unusable but outright dangerous.

“I have chosen to default back to my own system, which does not waste my time and endanger my patients.”

Dr Herb said consultations took an average of three to seven minutes longer, which over a shift added a 30 per cent load to productivity. Further, the system was prone to losing data and difficult to browse.

His colleague in Bellingen, Dr Trevor Cheney, was similarly disenchanted.

“The system is exquisitely frustrating and poorly designed,” Dr Cheney said.

“The system was supposed to revolutionise how hospital records are kept – it does nothing of the sort – we still have to work in tandem with paper and computers.”

Both doctors said NSW Health IT technicians sent to listen to their problems were arrogant and not open to hearing doctors’ complaints.

The NSW government has allocated $95 million for the roll-out of eMR statewide. The FirstNet application is one component of the project.

North Coast Area Heath Service’s chief information officer, David Drane, said the Department was aware changes needed to be made.

“We have a list of 30 issues which have been raised and we have been working on an optimisation plan for the last three months,” Mr Drane said.

“In particular we are working on perfecting the problem of speed with the system and providing more support for clinicians.

“We have employed five new permanent staff to support and train clinicians and we are about 80 per cent through the list of changes. Some issues will take longer to address and we are looking to having them fixed in the next 12 to 18 months.”

He said the NCAHS was the first rural area to go live with eMR, which was already operating in Sydney Southwest and Hunter New England Areas.

“Introducing technology to sites that have not had it before is always complex. It’s about change – we are on a journey and it will take time to bed down.”



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