Pulse+IT Blog

Official solutions a bit late to the vax party

We finally got to the bottom of exactly what has been going on with NSW Health’s vaccine booking system this week, discovering through the NSW tender site that a contract had been signed with ServiceNow Australia for a full vaccine management system way back in May. A new system has since been gradually rolled out to replace the hastily put-together appointment booking conglomeration our correspondent had struggled for several weeks to use, which we wrote about back in July.

Vaccine passports on the near horizon as DIY booking sites ramp up

Vaccine passports are shortly to become the next digital battleground in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately they are likely to be as divisive as contact tracing apps have been so far. Various Australian states and territories are expected to release details on exactly how these passports will work in a domestic sense in the next couple of weeks, with a national standard for vaccine passports for international travel still a bit up in the air.

Services Australia has done a pretty good job in getting vaccine certificates quickly available on the Medicare Express Plus app – they are also available on My Health Record, although few seem to be going there – and mandatory reporting to the Australian Immunisation Register is very much helping to make this process seamless. However, the PDF versions of the certificate on the Express Plus app have repeatedly been shown to be easily hacked, with fraudulent copies easily created, so the existing solution is obviously not one that can be used as a passport without a few fixes being made very quickly.

Light shed on the black pen of doom

The pettiness that can be indulged in by bureaucrats given free rein over government communications with a black pen was laid bare this week with the release to The Canberra Times of the full independent report into the COVIDSafe app and its usefulness during the first 10 months of the pandemic last year.

Readers will remember that a heavily redacted version was released publicly in July, with the vast majority blacked out or blanked out and what remained simply revealing a potted history of the app and its development. We suspected then that the report must have been uncomplimentary and so it has proved, but what was surprising was how ridiculous the redactions were, surely done for political reasons and not based on any great secrets of state.

13 years later, we’re still thinking about tomorrow

You know that saying about how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? It’s usually misattributed to Albert Einstein or George Bernard Shaw but there’s decent enough evidence that it was first muttered by a member of Al-Anon about a dodgy family member who liked too much of a tipple.

Pulse+IT was pondering this profundity this week when we heard word that the Australian Digital Health Agency was setting out once again on the quest to develop a national digital health strategy that would deliver the Australian health system into a glorious digital future. ADHA is required to develop a new strategy as the last one is due to run out next year, and it has now set upon the usual round of consultations with the usual suspects.

Telstra Health’s big MedicalDirector buy

Vague mutterings about the real value of once-dominant general practice management software vendor MedicalDirector have echoed through the years, particularly since it was flogged off to a private equity firm by former owner Primary Health Care (now Healius) in 2016 for what we thought of at the time as the extravagant sum of $155 million.

Five years later and the private equity owners have done their job, stripping the company of staff through multiple rounds of redundancies to cut costs and maximise their sale price. Telstra Health, amongst others, has been sniffing around for a few years, and earlier this week announced it had snapped MD up for the astonishing sum of $350 million. It dwarfs Telstra Health’s earlier acquisition of 18-odd companies for a combined total of $235-240 million, as well as its recent purchase of PowerHealth Solutions for $95m.

Movers and shakers in a time of crisis

Sydney is under curfew, NSW as a whole is in lockdown, Victoria is holding steady, there are new restrictions in the ACT, the NT and New Zealand, and even Tasmania is foreshadowing the ominous things to come by releasing its lockdown protocol ahead of anything like a recent local infection.

Strange days indeed, and not likely to change in the immediate future. We hear that the Australasian Institute of Digital Health is shortly to announce it will go fully virtual with its planned half virtual/half in person hybrid conference in Melbourne this year, and will not be surprised if HINZ’s Digital Health Week NZ in-person conference scheduled for late November in Wellington suffers the same fate as NZ enters stage 4 lockdown and three new cases are reported in Welly today.

When government digital systems work, they can work well

Pulse+IT is not alone in criticising certain digital platforms developed by various governments for healthcare and we are certainly not going to stop now, but we are happy to give credit where credit is due when it comes to good systems that appear to work. In particular, we’d like to laud the improvements made to myGov, which was an absolute trainwreck in its early days but has now become a reasonably seamless operation.

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