Pulse+IT Blog

Unedifying spectacle sums up My Health Record debacle

The word 'debacle' certainly got a work-out in the media and on the Senate floor this week as Labor mounted a last-ditch effort to have the opt-out period for the My Health Record extended for a full year. 'Debacle' joined 'bungle' as the words du jour, although we were mightily pleased to see at least one 'shemozzle' and the old favourite 'stuff up' joining the fray.

These choice phrases were of course launched at the government over its handling of the My Health Record opt-out process, particularly as the opt-out website and helpline began to suffer under the weight of people wanting to opt out at the last minute on Wednesday. The government was forced to cave in to pressure to extend the opt-out period, as the amendments to the My Health Record Act demanded by the opposition would not pass the lower house until the opt-out period was over.

Crashes, cave-ins and knee-jerk reactions

This week in the eternal drama that is the My Health Record we were served up a veritable smorgasbord of beat-ups, cave-ins and knee-jerk reactions about the system that would have tested Mr Creosote's enviable staying powers.

There was a story about the whole system crashing under the weight of people rushing to opt out – we have it on good authority that it did no such thing – that was then picked up by other outlets and beaten up within an inch of its life.

Spotlight back on Cerner in the Sunshine State

It's a big bad bungle after a database debacle after a computer catastrophe! No, not the My Health Record – this week it's the Cerner integrated electronic medical record (ieMR) that is rolling out in Queensland that is the topic of some over-excited headlines.

While Pulse+IT had a relatively sedate story this week on the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service postponing its roll-out of the digital hospital stack until next year because clinicians aren't quite ready for it yet – a sensible move, if you ask us – over at Channel 9, things were getting a little heated.

A tale of two comments

The My Health Record was back in the news this week as Department of Health and Australian Digital Health Agency officials were forced to undergo yet another gruelling bout of interrogation from the same Senate committee that put them through the wringer not six weeks ago.

Having handed down a report last Thursday recommending that the My Health Record opt-out period be suspended or extended for another year – an idea that was promptly rejected by Health Minister Greg Hunt last week – the same faces fronted up to Senate Estimates on Wednesday, with the same result. The only news was that about 240,000 more people had opted out since the last time the question was asked.

Blunt axe for the fax

Last week, we asked readers whether they thought a local axe the fax campaign, based on a similar one launched in the UK to rid the NHS of its fax machines, would work on this side of the planet. While the majority of respondents to our poll did – 64.5 per cent said yes, versus 35.5 per cent saying no – many of the resulting comments on the blog and on our Facebook Chat site were not so sure. It was not so much about whether a campaign would work, but whether we should even bother.

Many of the commenters, GPs and practice staff in the main, were of the opinion that faxes were entrenched in the healthcare system for very good reason: they are quick, easy, and everyone knows how to use them. Certainly there is a recognition that they were not exactly secure and there are plenty of GPs who detest them, but there are also plenty who say they are still the easiest, most reliable form of communication.

Do we need to take a local axe to the fax?

It's just over two years ago now that the RACGP put its foot down on the continuing use of the fax in general practice, issuing a position paper calling for healthcare services and government agencies that communicate patient information with general practice to cut out the paper and move instead to secure electronic means.

The college had high hopes that this could happen in three years, what with alternative means such as secure messaging already a mature technology. But while progress has been made by the industry to achieve interoperability between secure messaging providers, the fax machines are still there, cranking out as much paper as ever.

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