A new court-appointed leader proposes a plan to speed up deployment of new technology to reform California's prison healthcare system.n
By Kim S. Nash
The latest plan to overhaul California’s state prison healthcare system
calls for standardizing business processes first—then deploying
new technology—across all 33 penitentiaries.
In 2005, a federal judge seized control of the system from California,
appointing Bob Sillen, a career healthcare administrator, to turn it
around. Sillen was fired in January, criticized by some for moving too
slowly. Clark Kelso, a lawyer and former California state CIO who now
leads the project, plans an “aggressive” work schedule to return the
prison medical system to state control.
The goal is to create a healthcare system that both meets constitutional
standards and can be managed and maintained by the state. U.S. District
Court Judge Thelton Henderson has ruled that medical care of inmates in
California is so “deplorable” that it violates Eighth Amendment
prohibitions of cruel and unusual punishment. Preventable deaths among
inmates occur weekly, court reviews have determined.
“IT by itself isn’t going to solve anything in California’s prison
healthcare system,” Kelso acknowledges. Standardizing processes such as
how nurses, doctors and corrections officers respond to inmates’ health
emergencies is the first step toward reducing “unnecessary” deaths. “We
have to reach out to each institution and try to build from the ground
up a new way of doing business.”
Common Procedures and Software
Yet creating common procedures in areas such as the intake of new
inmates, or the management of medications prescribed for chronic
illnesses, will also allow the prisons to use common software and
networks for those tasks, he says. In general, Kelso’s IT plan
accelerates deployment of many projects that are already underway. The
Beginning in July, expansion of telemedicine to give inmates access
to medical specialists at area hospitals.
By February 2009, establishment of a central pharmacy serving all
prisons. The pharmacy would use Maxor’s GuardianRx pharmaceutical
management application, which is already installed in five prisons, to
track prescriptions systemwide.
By July 2009, deployment of a central database for inmate medical
records, including treatment histories and lab results. Kelso says he
expects to buy the database from Oracle and award a contract to an
integrator in the next few months.
The plan also talks about construction of new facilities at each
prison, which will not be completed until July 2013.
As for when he will return the system to state control, Kelso won’t
estimate a date. “I don’t know how quickly we will have changes take
hold. It will take as long as it takes,” he says. “I need to be able to
demonstrate that we’ve made systemic changes in the way we provide care
for patient inmates and that those changes result in fewer preventable
deaths and a healthier prison population. “I’ve got to be able to show
that. Otherwise the court won’t have confidence that we changed