€2m spent on hospital IT systems due for replacement

Regional Hospital Tullamore

Over €2m has been spent since 2014 upgrading hospital laboratory information systems which are in the process of being replaced.

The start date for the €33m National Medical Laboratory Information System (MedLIS) project was October 2015, with the first hospitals — St James Hospital in Dublin, Regional Hospital Tullamore, and Regional Hospital Portlaoise — earmarked to go live with it in December 2016.

However, the phase one rollout has been delayed until the second quarter of 2018 to accommodate changes required for the system to work “in the right way for the Irish healthcare system”, the HSE said.

The original project timeline envisaged full MedLIS rollout to 43 public hospitals by 2019.

As the project drags on, the HSE has had to invest in ongoing upgrades to maintain existing systems. The level of investment has increased from €122,419 since 2014 to €578,617 in 2015, €711,852 last year, and €760,921 so far this year.

Just under €400,000 was spent on an emergency upgrade of the lab system at Cork University Hospital between 2014 and 2015 after it crashed five times. More than €400,000 was invested in a lab upgrade at Galway University Hospital in 2015 and 2016, as well as €60,000 on licences for additional lab system users.

In 2016 and 2017, almost €500,000 was spent on a lab upgrade in the University of Limerick Hospital group, while €558,000 was spent on an upgrade at University Hospital Waterford.

An upgrade at Our Lady of Lourdes, Navan, came at a cost of €253,000 over the same period. Almost €7,500 was spent on a histology LIS upgrade in Sligo and Letterkenny this year.

The HSE said lab systems “were acquired and deployed over 10 years ago and some in the 1990s, and have been upgraded several times in that timeframe”.

“Legacy systems are prone to risks and can cause situations like Wanacry [a global cyberattack], hence the need to upgrade,” said the HSE.

It said the the purpose of the MedLIS project was to deliver “a standardised laboratory information system that supports the delivery of laboratory medicine and meets the needs of patients and their health care providers, ie hospital consultants, nursing staff, hospital management, general practitioners etc throughout the Irish healthcare setting.”

The MedLIS system was purchased from American firm Cerner, as was the Maternal and Newborn Clinical Management System which cost €35m. Its rollout was also delayed.

After it went live in CUMH in December 2016 following a six-month delay, it emerged that the system was not linked electronically to GPs. That deficit has been addressed and the system went live at the Rotunda Hospital last weekend. It remains to be rolled out to another 16 maternity units.

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