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Queensland Health's Dr Richard Ashby outlines vision, tech play

Jennifer O'Brien | July 17, 2017
Lessons learned from payroll disaster -- and previous clinician and clinical administrator roles -- to help direct the ship

Dr Richard Ashby
Dr Richard Ashby

Queensland's Health's CEO and CIO Dr Richard Ashby wasn't around in 2013 when a payroll system implementation disaster led to a Commission of Inquiry. But he has taken one lesson learned during this debacle to heart and he applies it to all current and future tech projects at the organisation.

"One thing we have learned is that having the applications and the hosting and the managed services undertaken by one organisation is proving to be very beneficial. I won't pick on payroll, in particular, but some of those sorts of examples where things haven't gone well, you end up with large multinational companies pointing at each other, and pointing at government."

Certainly, as the chief executive of eHealth Queensland and CIO of Queensland Health, Ashby has a big remit. In his combined role, he said he is focused on the business outcomes and the transformation of care for individual patients and for groups of patients for hospitals, and for the system.

"It's how do we make care safer, how do we make it more efficient, more productive, more sustainable? And coming from a big health service, I've got a pretty close view on what needs to happen with the enabling technology of eHealth," he told CIO Australia. "So what can eHealth bring to the table that will assist the business, rather than existing just for our own sake."

Called a "digital hospital evangelist" by peers, Ashby, who's the former Queensland Metro South Hospital and Health Service CEO and awarded a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to emergency medicine and medical administration - is knee deep in strategic projects - most notably the digital hospitals program.

"A major project is the digital hospitals programme, where we are rolling out the digital hospital to the 24 hospitals in Queensland over 100 beds by 2020."

He noted the project was initially started in 2011, was re-baselined in 2014 when there was a change from a progressive implementation to a digital exemplar implementation, and the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) went live in 2015. It was finalised with a medication management implementation in April 2017.

"The PAH was the exemplar hospital in that project. It was completed successfully and is running along well. We expect to be going live in Mackay in October, Logan in November, and with Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in the first quarter of next year. It is quite an ambitious project with tight timelines, but we're satisfied that we've got fit-for-purpose product, and we've now worked out how to implement it successfully."

Ashby said while the tentacles of the project are many, he outlined a number of modules including the fact the PAH is now paperless.


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