Ray Brown stepped in two weeks ago as the latest chief information officer for Queensland Health, hoping to bring some stability to a division that has seen a number of faces move through the head technology spot in quick succession.
CIO profile Ray Brown stepped in two weeks ago as the latest chief information officer for Queensland Health, hoping to bring some stability to a division that has seen a number of faces move through the head technology spot in quick succession.
His contract had been terminated, Queensland's Health informed the
press at the time. There had been reports that his expenses were
being examined, but the department wouldn't comment on the issue.
His position was filled briefly in an acting capacity by the
clinically adept Dr Richard Ashby. Ashby had served in several
hospitals in emergency medicine and medical administration roles.
The Australian Medical Association was pleased of the appointment
because of Ashby's clinical experience.
"We have seen millions of dollars in health IT funding wasted
over the years in Queensland, so the appointment of a highly
regarded senior hospital clinician who is acutely aware of exactly
what is required to provide optimal patient outcomes is very
welcome," it said at the time.
Yet Ashby didn't remain long, leaving in January to become the
executive director and director of medical services at Princess
A bit of stability in the leadership of the division for the
next little while would be a good outcome for the division, so
that's what I hope occurs.
Queensland Health again had to fill the void with an interim
appointment, reaching into the ranks of its information division.
Brown had been acting as the executive director ICT service
delivery since June 2008, before which he had been pursuing an IT
career in the Queensland public service, holding senior roles in
the Police, Corrective Services and the former Department of
Queensland Health may have hit the jackpot this time. Brown
hasn't followed the pattern of leaving after only a brief stint on
the job. Instead, he was
appointed formally to the chief information officer position last week.
And despite much attention being directed at the leadership
turmoil, the CIO doesn't believe that it has damaged the long-term
technology strategy of Queensland Health.
Since 2006, the IT gurus of Queensland Health have had a
mission: to bring the state's hospitals into the modern world of
state of the art clinical information systems. Summergreene's
predecessor Sabrina Walsh had primed the way by obtaining funding
of upwards of $650 million over four years for e-health initiatives.
Whichever leader was in the hot spot, the e-health holy grail
was never out of sight, according to Brown. "The e-Health strategy
has stood the test of time and remained sound. Each incumbent of
the Queensland Health CIO role has built on the direction and
progress of the e-Health Strategy without the need to re-visit
significant elements of the strategy or the project artefacts
delivered," he tells ZDNet.com.au in an interview last week.
When the CIO started in the role in the acting capacity, it had been
his focus and it would continue to be so for the next few years, he
Around 20 per cent ($243 million) of the funding first
made available in the 2007/2008 financial year had been spent,
Brown says. The remaining 80 per cent would be spent by 2011/2012.
So far one of the standout successes has been getting
an enterprise discharge summary system up and running, a national first, Brown says. The system sees
hospital reports go out to GPs who can use them to service
outpatients. Brown says, 55,000 summaries have already gone out from 56
hospitals, with June next year seeing 120 facilities being capable
of issuing the summaries.
The e-Health strategy
has stood the test of time and remained sound.
Another win has been getting a new imaging system coming online
so that diagnostic images taken in rural locations could be
examined and used to diagnose remotely.
Brown is also proud of a statewide mental health system which
can now be accessed by all mental health workers. Queensland is the
first state to set up such a system, according to Brown.
"Generally speaking we're pretty comfortable that where we're at
today will allow us to actually achieve most of those time frames
that are in that report," Brown says.
Yet Queensland Health's outlook doesn't look as rosy as some,
having had a later start than some states on creating the records.
"At some level I think we're behind some of the other states,"
Brown admits. He points out that NSW and Victoria had done more
work in that area. He stresses, however, that Queensland Health was
ahead in other areas, and could catch up on the systems in which it
"The forward work program and the way this organisation is
structured is probably going to allow us to certainly catch up if
not pass some of those other jurisdictions in terms of their
e-health agenda," he says.
However, he can't forget that e-health is only good as long as
the systems are reliable. Earlier this year one of Queensland
Health's datacentres had a
train of small problems which lead to some applications going off line.
Brown acknowledges that datacentres are on the agenda at the
moment. "We will be migrating all of our production environments
over the next four to five years to the new government datacentres
that are being established," he said. Those new datacentres, like
the Polaris datacentre in Springfield, have at least a tier three rating.
At some level I think we're behind some of the other states.
There isn't really a planned time for migration, according to
Brown. As the department refreshes equipment, the new equipment
will be set up in new datacentres instead of in the current ones.
The electronic medical record will be established straightaway in a
Along with updating datacentre facilities, Brown will also be
looking to make hospitals wireless as the electronic health agenda
comes online. The department has recently been doing trials with
Cisco to gauge how mobile devices can benefit the health
The results have been positive. Yet in order for
mobile devices to have the required affect, older hospitals need to
be networked. With only $60 million budgeted this year for all IT
infrastructure, this could require an additional line of funding.
"That won't cover wireless for the state, that's for sure," Brown
This is unlikely to be the only roadblock to Brown's goals in what will
be a challenging period of e-health implementation. Yet,
most importantly for Queensland Health, Brown at least looks set to remain for a time
yet. This will likely bring a little more stability to the department which has
seen CIOs pass through too quickly.
"A bit of stability in the leadership of the division for the
next little while would be a good outcome for the division, so
that's what I hope occurs," he says. And, as mentioned before, he believes in the
e-health chalice he has been handed, which could be half the battle.