Bowling a wobbly to Beauchamp
The decision by former Department of Health secretary Martin Bowles to make a quick and unexpected exit from the public service and hand over to then Industry secretary Glenys Beauchamp back in August is looking increasingly like a clever move, with a few high-profile health and eHealth projects looking a little shaky at the moment, we are hearing.
According to The Mandarin, Mr Bowles' decision to decamp to Calvary Health Care with just nine days' notice was in part due to rumours, which Pulse+IT has also heard, about a difficult relationship with the office of Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Mr Hunt has performed pretty well in the portfolio since taking it on after Sussan Ley's fall from grace in January, although much of this is due to him abandoning four years of his government's most unpopular health policies such as the freeze on Medicare rebates and junking arguments about budget repair, but in the process nullifying one of Labor's biggest electoral weapons.
However, we understand that normally pleasurable activities, such as announcements of NHMRC grants and their accompanying photo opps – health informatics did very well in the recent round of grants to the tune of $2.5 million – are being held up for much longer than usual. Mr Hunt is most often seen at the moment announcing the listing of new drugs on the PBS or, like today, changes to private health insurance that poor forgotten Ms Ley first touted last year.
All health ministers love a good multi-million dollar drug announcement so Mr Hunt is not on his own on this one, but chinks are beginning to show in the facade, and the Department of Health is showing the strain. We've put in a few impertinent questions about the Health Care Homes trial and the National Cancer Screening Register which, if our sources' claims turn out to be correct, are likely to cause all hell to break loose. We haven't heard back just yet but we'll let you know about them one way or the other next week.
Mixed signals are also coming out about a trial of medicines reconciliation that former minister Ley was thinking about funding last year, although we are also finding it difficult to get any information out of the Pharmacy Guild at the moment as they are embroiled in a rather unedifying stoush with the AMA over the upscheduling of codeine.
At least DoH will be relieved that it has the horrible weight of the My Health Record off its hands, with the digital health agency now having to spring into action every time a data breach hits the front pages. That's what happened just this week, although we reckon the link made by Fairfax between dummy data left on the internet by the US office of Accenture and the little old MyHR in Australia was such a stretch that it resembled nothing more than Wile E Coyote's adventures with the ACME brand of bow and arrow.
While all of this was going on, we were fascinated to hear about the agreement between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and a new start-up called E-Nome, which is working on applying blockchain to health records, which turned out to be our most popular story this week. We've been reading about how blockchain will revolutionise medical record security for a while now and the cynics that we are, we put it all down to hype. But having read E-Nome's white paper, there might be something in it after all. Have a read of our story and let us know what you think.
That also brings us to our poll question for the week: Do you think blockchain technology in healthcare is all hype? Sign up for our weekend edition or leave a comment below.
Our poll last week asked: Does the continued use of paper in hospitals pose a safety risk to patients? Most of you said yes: 75% to 25%.