Cost Doubles for CA Inmate Medical Record System

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A huge project to modernize medical record-keeping for California prison inmates has more than doubled in cost from original estimates, to nearly $400 million in just three years, reports the Associated Press. J. Clark Kelso, the federal court-appointed receiver who controls California’s inmate health care system, approved the project in 2013 to replace the state’s antiquated paper-based records with an electronic system that could track the medical and mental health care of nearly 130,000 inmates. A year of delays means it will not be installed in all 35 prisons until the end of 2017. Inmate advocates are so concerned about problems with the new system that they may seek to push it back even longer at some prisons.

The cost ballooned to $386.5 million from the original $182 million in part because the first estimate left out basics like the cost of maintaining the system and replacing worn-out equipment. Kelso said his office had also failed to anticipate needing $13 million worth of mobile devices: 16,800 laptops, dictation machines, and other gear. Nor did it include the extra software required for things as fundamental as incorporating inmates’ requests to see doctors. The authorities added dental records to the system last year, and the latest estimate includes three additional years of operation. “We started out with as cheap a system as we thought we could use,” Kelso said, “and then, along the way, there were some things that we decided, ‘You know, we absolutely need these, it turns out.’ ”

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