Pulse+IT Blog

Digital health is neither penicillin nor panacea

Pulse+IT visited the University of NSW to hear from some of digital health's luminaries on Wednesday, mingling with a gathering of the usual suspects from Australia, as well as numerous international speakers at the inaugural International Digital Health Symposium.

The symposium, organised by the George Institute for Global Health and the Australian Digital Health Agency, followed a two-day talkfest in Canberra on Monday and Tuesday to celebrate the Global Digital Health Partnership, which ADHA hopes will become very important in the digital health scheme of things.

RTPM and NCSR swirl in an acronym soup

We were vaguely amused this week when, among the voluminous coverage of Victoria's draft regulations for its SafeScript real-time prescription monitoring system, we discovered that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was threatening to write a sternly worded letter to all the other states and territories to ask them to get a move on with the federal RTPM system that he has championed to the tune of $16 million.

Amused because this is exactly what one of his predecessors, Peter Dutton, did way back in 2014 and no one paid him any attention then either. Four years on from those sternly worded letters, here we are, with Victoria giving up on the feds and building its own system and the ACT government only just announcing last week that it will legislate to give prescribers and pharmacists real-time access to its existing monitoring system by March 2019.

Pity the poor software vendors

Yes, we know that no one has ever said that and really meant it, but this week has been a tough one to be a clinical software vendor, what with being unfairly maligned by a high-profile medical college, caught up in a state election campaign and otherwise taking the blame for all manner of ills.

Poor old EPAS in Adelaide came in for yet another beating from local rag the Advertiser last week, which reported that 25,000 outpatients were missing an urgency rating following a transfer from the old booking system to EPAS, which clinicians will now have to fix up and are rightly grumbling about.

Amazon takes aim at healthcare costs

Coming hot on the heels of Apple's announcement last week that it is seriously getting into the healthcare game came another healthcare announcement from a US tech giant this week in the form of Amazon, although what the proposal actually entails is still a bit fuzzy.

The online retailer and cloud provider has got together with Warren Buffet's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway and financial services firm JPMorgan Chase to explore how to provide healthcare to their tens of thousands of US employees. Speculation initially centred on whether the trio was going to try to take on America's notorious health insurers, but it looks much more likely now that the main game is to explore how technology can cut the cost of healthcare provision.

Apple ups the ante with Health Records app

Another day and another tech firm announces they're set to revolutionise healthcare with their dinky new app, promising to bring untold insights from your personal health records to the palm of your hand and enable information sharing on an unimaginable scale. We hear this boast often enough and cast a thoroughly sceptical eye over every one, but when the app comes from Apple, we do admit to taking a little more notice than usual.

Gossip has abounded about Apple's interest in entering the personal health record market for some years and they've already got some runs on the board with their ResearchKit and HealthKit technology and the existing Health app. But while they've been hiring quite a few people with health technology experience over the last few years, speculation about Apple's likelihood of success in PHRs has always been tempered by the example of Google, which tried and failed with Google Health, and Microsoft, which still markets its HealthVault solution but which just this month closed down HealthVault Insights, an app that used machine learning to analyse health data.

Opinion: Reflections of a general practitioner on carbon versus silicon-based IT

I may be one of the last of a disappearing generation of working GPs. I graduated in 1970, having taught myself to touch type in my sixth year of medical school (which may have been the most useful thing I learned that year.)

I observed the growth of medical computing from that perspective: typed letters, dictated hospital admission notes, the birth of the personal computer, the use of computers to write scripts, then with increasing sophistication to take over clinical recording.

The trouble with shared care planning

Welcome back to a new year of the weekend edition of Pulse+IT, in which we cast our glance over the events of the week and pontificate for your reading pleasure on what we think it all means for the eHealth and health IT sector. It looks set to be a make or break year for the My Health Record as it goes opt-out at some yet-to-be-decided date towards the end of the year and 20 million people are suddenly presented with a storage receptacle for their health information.

It might be a make or break year for the Health Care Homes project as well, already off to a rocky start with delays and bickering over bundled payments. There was also a bit of a kerfuffle at the end of last year over what shared care planning software the participating practices could choose from and the accuracy of the product information about them.

Team care arrangement have been promoted as the way forward for the primary care sector but actually getting GPs and other members of the care team such as specialists and allied health to use these tools has always been a tough gig. Precedence Healthcare was one of the pioneers of shared care plans in primary care through its cdmNet product, although there are a number of others out there, but even Precedence has found the going tough and shifted its focus once it was acquired by Sonic Clinical Services. It's a struggle for all of these companies, fighting it out for a small market share.

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