Pulse+IT Blog

Temper tantrums and the tortured path of health IT

All eyes were on Canberra this week as the upper house's community affairs committee put the Department of Health and its agencies under the microscope during Senate budget estimates, but it turns out it was in the lower house where the real fireworks were about to go off.

Long-term eHealth watchers have become used to estimates hearings being quite bruising affairs, particularly when it comes to the tortured progress of the PCEHR/MyHR over the last seven or so years. But it was a much more agreeable atmosphere this week when Australian Digital Health Agency CEO Tim Kelsey fronted up with chief operating officer Bettina McMahon, core systems head Ronan O'Connor and chief medical adviser Meredith Makeham.

Consent and the Clayton's communications campaign

The Australian Digital Health Agency did a pretty good job publicising that fact that its CEO, Tim Kelsey, would be addressing the assembled hacks and no-hopers of the nation's media at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday.

Mr Kelsey gave a celebratory, forward-looking speech, outlining a brave new world of digitally enabled healthcare in which the hum and the whirr of the fax machine is finally silenced. He got a nice round of applause, a genial introduction from NPC president Sabra Lane and then a gentle enough opening question about the difficulties US doctors were finding with EMRs.

Opt in, opt out, or shake it all about

Was it bad timing or just bad luck that on the morning of the day the Australian Digital Health Agency decided to announce the date on which people could begin opting out of the My Health Record, a massive media storm exploded over what appeared to be a serious hack of Family Planning NSW's website, which could potentially have breached the privacy of thousands of people.

As it turned out, the hack exploited a vulnerability in a particular piece of software used to build websites, one of which just happened to belong to FP NSW. It was a ransomware attack of the kind that is increasingly common to all manner of industries and organisations, but which did not target healthcare, Family Planning or its vulnerable clients specifically.

Paper scripts will still have currency

After the massive windfall for eHealth in the 2017-18 federal budget, when the My Health Record expansion program was funded to the tune of $375 million over two years, there were comparatively slim pickings in this year's budget, although it did hold a little surprise or two.

There was a bit of money to go towards the long-term project to replace the Medicare and aged care payments systems, and another bit for My Aged Care. Apparently there was also $5 million over two years to help the National Children’s Digital Health Collaborative to develop a national digital baby book, although we missed that in all the excitement over massive tax cuts that look unlikely to eventuate. We still can't track this announcement down in the voluminous budget papers so would welcome anyone kindly showing us the way.

Now is the winter of patient consent

There is a certain type of news reporting common in Australia that we like to call pavlova journalism, in which basic ingredients are beaten up so hard they turn into a meringue, crisp on the outside but slightly unctuous in the middle and certain to make you feel sick if you eat too much of it.

That's pretty much the feeling MedicalDirector staff would have had if they made the mistake of reading some News Corp publications on Monday. Nestled in a swirl of eggy slop was the bold claim that 45 per cent of Australian GPs were now required to share all of their patients' data due to a software upgrade.

Coming up trumps in EMR funding

We had to chuckle at a cheeky comment on our top story this week on the riches raining down on Melbourne's Parkville precinct, where after the disappointment of last year a consortium of three hospitals came up trumps in this week's state budget to the tune of $124 million to roll out an EMR.

While no one mentioned the E word you can be assured that the vendor is Epic, as the business case for funding was built to mirror the successful implementation at the neighbouring Royal Children’s Hospital and the long-held plan has always been to have a precinct-wide EMR. The executive director of the Parkville EMR project is Jackie McLeod, who led the roll-out at RCH.

Marked movement in medical software market

Practice management software vendor MediRecords was in the news this week when we revealed on Wednesday that it had picked up the contract to replace the now unsupported practiX for Queensland Health in a deal worth about $1 million over five years.

MediRecords managed to secure the contract in front of 13 other bidders in what was a hotly contested exercise, and while $1m is not a huge amount in the scheme of things, it will be warmly welcomed by MediRecords, which hasn't had as big an impact on the market that it originally hoped for when it launched in mid-2016.

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