Is ADHA's magical mystery tour finally bearing fruit?

The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) was back in the news this last fortnight as the large round of consultations it has been doing – or what we like to call Tim Kelsey's magical mystery tour – comes to an end and work on a new national eHealth strategy starts in earnest.

There has been a flurry of activity, with tenders issued for secure messaging proof of concept trials and pharmacy software vendors incentivised to hook up to the My Health Record. Just this week the members of some of the agency's advisory committees were revealed, some of them extremely worthy. And on Friday, we found out a few details about the next release of the MyHR and what spiffing new features to expect, the most important from a clinical perspective being a unified view of medications and better searchability of pathology and diagnostic imaging reports.

This, to our eyes, is a minor miracle. Not the new features, mind you, but the fact that ADHA is actually publicly speaking about them. It used to be a massive scoop for us whenever we discovered the slightest detail about the PCEHR, so opaque and secretive was ADHA's predecessor. (The story that a certain high-ranking staffer at the Department of Health pulled the plug on NEHTA's webinars because Pulse+IT had the gall to report on them is one we know for certain to be true.)

So it was amusing to say the least when we learned in an ADHA webinar today that one of the main complaints from the vendor community about NEHTA/ADHA was that “We shouldn't be hearing about [ADHA] news from Pulse+IT – we would rather hear from the agency.” We reckon you're better off sticking with us, but it seems some people are giving ADHA the benefit of the doubt.

We are certainly pleased with the improvement in ADHA's openness and transparency, but there is still a touch of the amateur about the agency. We only found out about two important webinars quite late this week, the agency's written and verbal communication is still littered with jargon and motherhood statements, and a recent press release on secure messaging could only be described as an atrocity. How can ADHA fix eHealth if it can't even master basic punctuation? We also hear that they can't get the phones at their Sydney head office to work.

However, now that the magical mystery tour is over we are hoping it's time for some decisions and some progress to be made, and we'd be interested to know what you think. In July last year, when ADHA was just getting off the ground, we asked: Do you expect the new Australian Digital Health Agency will be better than NEHTA at guiding the eHealth sector? 31 per cent of you said yes, 31 per cent said no, and 38 per cent said probably the same. Our poll this week asks the question: Are you more or less positive about ADHA's direction now than you were six months ago?

Also last week, we ran a story about some EMR budget overruns at Queensland Health, to which eHealth Queensland responded with admirable candour. Our poll asked whether hospital EMRs are worth the price, and it seems we have some big bang EMR fans among our readership. 43 per cent of you said yes, 30 per cent said no, and 27 per cent hedged their bets.

Tags: ADHA

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