Govt auditor fingers troubled Vic ambo database

Report to assess responsiveness, data capture

The troubled electronic Patient Care Records (ePCR) system will likely come under the microscope under a review of the Victorian Ambulance service by the state auditor general.

The ePCR system is the four-year brainchild of the former Metropolitan Ambulance Service, now Ambulance Victoria, and is dubbed the Victoria Ambulance Clinical Information System (VACIS) in that state. It replaces paper-based PCRs with a database system accessed within ambulances using laptops.

It has come under fire from paramedics across Australia who told Computerworld Australia the system is increasing pressure on the allegedly strained service. The VACIS was criticised for being more difficult and time-consuming to use than the paper-based system it is built to replace.

The auditor-general probe will assess the ability of Ambulance Victoria to collect and disseminate data which is understood to include the VACIS.

Data analysis from the VACIS — which includes information from the point of emergency call to the patient’s admission to hospital — has been used to improve the efficiency of the ambulance service and the delivery of healthcare, according to Ambulance Victoria chief information officer (CIO), Cameron Crampton.

He said in an earlier article the number-crunching allowed Ambulance Victoria to dispatch 500,000 of the closest individual ambulances and paramedic fire-fighters to emergency scenes last year, which replaced the common occurrence of multiple units arriving to one scene.

But paramedics using the system said records in the ePCR system take up to an hour to fill out, or four-times longer than with pen and paper, and claim it produces lax reports that do not adequately describe a patient’s condition. Worse, they said some doctors were left stranded when overburdened paramedics have dumped patients at hospitals without PCRs.

In an as-yet unpublished draft of the “broad scope”, obtained by Computerworld Australia, the Victoria Auditor General said it will assess if information about responsiveness is accurately captured and reported.

“This audit will provide an assessment of current accessibility and responsiveness of emergency ambulance services and whether performance has changed over time,” the report read.

“It will also consider distribution of Ambulance Victoria services and whether these services are deployed to maximise responsiveness and accessibility.”

Victorian Nationals Party leader, Peter Ryan, requested the audit on the grounds of what he claims are a string of problems caused by the 2008 amalgamation of the state’s former rural and metropolitan ambulance services.

“Trained paramedics are increasingly being placed in the position of being unable to provide services because various administrative issues are impinging upon their capacity to do so,” Ryan said in a letter to Victorian Auditor-General, Des Pearson.

“...the issue is to do with resource allocation — both equipment and personnel.”

The state auditor-general will finalise the scope of the audit during talks with Ambulance Victoria and the Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee.

The report will be tabled in parliament from 6 October.

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Tags victorian auditor generalAmbulance Victoria

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