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Computer system ‘puts patients at risk’

Calls have been made to scrap the “compromised” computer system that runs emergency departments in NSW hospitals.

A review has found the computer system that runs emergency departments in hospitals throughout NSW is crippled by design flaws and is compromising patient care.

The review found the FirstNet system allows treatment details and test results to be assigned inadvertently to the wrong patient, The Sydney Morning Herald says.

The review by Jon Patrick, director of the University of Sydney's health information technology research laboratory, is based on a technical study of the software and interviews with directors of seven Sydney emergency departments.

The system is so compromised it should be scrapped, a specialist doctors' group said on Sunday.

Difficulties retrieving patient records could delay treatment, and the system - on which $115 million has been spent - automatically cancelled pathology and radiology requests if the person was transferred from the emergency department without checking whether these were still needed, the review found.

Sally McCarthy, president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said Patrick's findings confirmed that the system, loathed by doctors and nurses, is unsuitable for its purpose.

The potential for records to be linked to the wrong patient raised a serious risk they would be given incorrect treatment, she said.

A NSW Health spokesman said in a statement the department agreed with Patrick that "the ability to have two patient records open on a screen is a patient safety issue and this will be addressed through a software upgrade".

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