Pulse+IT Poll: June 14 - 'None of them' are competent

The election spotlight was firmly on health this week, with Labor sharpening its Medicare campaigning and the Coalition seeking to nullify its opponent's strategy by backing away from plans to outsource the handling of claims to someone other than Department of Human Services (DHS).

Before these political machinations started to play out, and with more of an interest in our readers' views on the way government affects the delivery of clinically related IT projects, Pulse+IT asked readers the following question:

Which government organisation do you see as the most competent at delivering IT projects in healthcare?

The results as at COB on Monday, June 20 were as follows:

Which government organisation do you see as the most competent at delivering IT projects in healthcare?
Edition DOH DHS NEHTA PHNs None of them Total
Tuesday 2 (5%) 8 (21%) 5 (13%) 4 (11%) 19 (50%) 38
Wednesday 2 (4%) 6 (13%) 2 (4%) 6 (13%) 29 (64%) 45
Thursday 4 (14%) 2 (7%) 5 (18%) 2 (7%) 15 (54%) 28
Friday 4 (12%) 1 (3%) 2 (6%) 5 (15%) 21 (64%) 33
Total 12 (8%) 17 (12%) 14 (10%) 17 (12%) 84 (58%) 144

As is apparent from the results, Pulse+IT readers took the chance to voice their disapproval of the various federally funded organisations in charge of delivering IT projects in the health sector, with 58 per cent of respondents clearly not impressed with those organisations' performance. All received a distinct lack of support in more or less equal measure.

Attracting just 12 positive responses (8 per cent), the Department of Health - the system operator of the My Health Record and crafter of the eHealth PIP policy settings - is viewed as the least competent at delivering IT projects, with DHS (Medicare) seen as slightly more competent, although not by much. Just 17 people (12 per cent) were supportive of its track record.

According to respondents, the PHNs were equally worthy of DHS's dubious accolade of 'best of a bad bunch', the now one-year-old reboot of the Medicare Local scheme attracting 17 votes also. However, it's difficult to divine from these results just what IT projects the PHNs have delivered that have excited their fans, with the only major project of note that springs to mind being the commencement of My Health Record opt-out trials to start in earnest in mid July.

The soon-to-be decommissioned National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) attracted support from 14 respondents (10 per cent), with one left to wonder whether the merger of elements of Health and NEHTA into the Australian Digital Health Agency will improve the prospects of the government making a useful contribution to the way IT projects are delivered in the health sector.

For what it's worth, I do think DHS was treated a little unfairly in this week's poll results, with DHS often having to deliver projects and initiatives on behalf of other agencies that are not fit for purpose (e.g. the HI Service), redundant and unnecessary (e.g. the Medicare Easyclaim system and the various authentication systems), or do little to have a meaningful effect on the use of IT in healthcare settings (e.g. the eHealth PIP).

Of bigger concern in recent days, however, is just how quickly the Coalition scrapped its plans to investigate the feasibility of outsourcing parts of the Medicare claims processing system. Rather than attempt to explain to concerned voters that seeking to improve the way the Medicare system is operated is a completely separate matter to the policy settings that govern just who gets reimbursed for healthcare costs and to what level, on Sunday Malcolm Turnbull reinforced Labor's conflation of the issues, saying: "Medicare will never ever be privatised. It will never ever be sold. Every element of Medicare services that is being delivered by government today, will be delivered by government in the future. Full stop. That is the fact."

This week's Pulse+IT Poll question for Australian readers is: Which political party has the best health policy?

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If you have any suggestions for future Pulse+IT Polls, feel free to post these in the comments section below or submit a tip.

Tags: NEHTA, PHNs, Medicare, Department of Health, Department of Human Services

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