Patient administration project challenges Southern Cross

IBA system delayed but operating satisfactorily, says IS manager

Southern Cross Hospitals’ IBA Patient Administration System (PAS) is almost two years overdue, according to an anonymous letter sent to Computerworld.

Rollout to the not-for-profit hospital group stopped at one stage, due to “hundreds of program errors”, the informant writes.

The letter says edicts from the CEO and board insisted that IBA PAS be rolled out no matter what because it had become an issue of “credibility”.

According to Southern Cross Hospitals IS manager Colin Thrush, the $1.5 million project has taken a year longer than planned but has not had major cost over-runs. He says the project “has been more difficult than we would have liked”.

He says the IBA system, which replaces the group’s HAS patient system, is now operating satisfactorily.

“We have had some teething problems, but this is not entirely unusual for these complex IT projects,” says Thrush.

“In many areas there are significant improvements over our former systems. Over the next 12 months, we will continue to make improvements, particularly in the reporting area,” Thrush says.

Reporting is one area the letter addresses. Creating the end-of-year accounts was especially difficult, it says, adding that at least five temporary staff had to be called in to assist the finance team sift through “hundreds of thousands” of lines of transactions, and manually extract information.

Thrush says “Some costs were incurred to undertake manual processes at year-end until we were confident that the IBA system was operating as required”. He says it has been a complex task to modify the system to suit the local market and to roll it out to the nationwide network of hospitals.

“Most of the issues we had related to the specific unique changes made for Southern Cross, not the standard core product of IBA,” he says.

IBA Health Group spokesman Greg King says that from iSoft’s perspective, the project is progressing well, within agreed timeframes, scope and budget adopted by Southern Cross management.

This includes incorporation of a number of enhancements made at the request of Southern Cross to suite their specific processes, says King.

“We are confident that the Southern Cross and iSoft team will deliver a successful project,” says King.

Thrush says the delay in delivery was partly because continued support for the HAS system allowed the organisation to relax its rollout timetable, but there were also other factors.

“The modifications needed were more extensive than anticipated, took longer to deliver and had some faults. As a result, we slowed the rollout until these faults were addressed,” he says.

The system is now live in nine out of 10 hospitals, he says, with the remaining hospital due to go live in a few weeks. Two new hospitals will go live with the system early next year, he adds.

Thrush says Southern Cross Hospitals has largely used internal IT resources to complete the rollout and undertake training.

“While this has meant the rollout has taken longer, we believe it was more cost effective and ensured better internal buy-in,” he says.

“Overall, IBA is up and running and supporting the business and there has not been any adverse impact to patient care,” he says.

Sydney-based IBA acquired struggling British rival iSoft for A$410 million (NZ$452 million) a year ago after a long and drawn-out takeover campaign. The acquisition followed financial trouble on iSoft’s part, which led to delays in delivery of its Lorenzo care record software, a key component of the UK National Health Services’ £12.4 billion National Programme for IT.

Southern Cross Hospitals was established in 1979. It is owned and operated by the Southern Cross Health Trust.

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