ADHA's positive self-report card

The Australian Digital Health Agency released its first annual report this week and gave itself a nice pat on the back for a few milestones reached. The agency, which likes to style itself as the Agency with a capital A and which we like to imagine is modelled after a certain bureau (of investigation) with a capital B, laid out its strategic priorities and how it reckons it measured up.

Turns out it reckons it did OK, fulfilling a number of strategic priorities such as setting up the secure messaging trials, writing the national digital health strategy, and increasing the number of people and organisations registered for the My Health Record. While the agency has been set up to handle a few different things, progress with the MyHR is of course the biggie, so we were keen to see what it had to report.

There were a few interesting facts and figures, such as the number of data breaches of the My Health Record and how the majority of them actually emanated from someone making dodgy claims to Medicare. There was also a long list of how many documents have gone up over the last year, which is data that we reported on a lot over the years in the absence of evidence of anyone actually using the system.

The agency also laid out its strategic priorities for the coming year, including continuing with the secure messaging trials, preparing a draft of the framework for interoperability – what ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey calls the 'licence to operate' – and of course preparing for the hugely sensitive and likely hugely controversial move to opt-out.

We think the agency has scored a few positives this year and a few negatives, but we are still at the stage of giving it the benefit of the doubt rather than making a judgement on whether it has been successful or not. We remain concerned about brain drain of expertise from NEHTA's days and an influx of people with soft technical skills and scant industry experience, and at the number of people with deep industry knowledge who didn't even make it to the interview stage.

We also remain concerned at the state of the relationship with the standards community and how some people seem to be on the outer. And while relations with the medical software industry are infinitely better than in the past, we still think vendors are being held at arm's length. Our advice to the agency is that if you're playing in the medical software space, talk to the people who have been doing it for 20 or 30 years.

However, we are reserving judgement until next year. We still think the digital health strategy was a practical document that thankfully went light on the vision and mission buzzwords, and we think many of its elements are achievable. 2018 will be crunch time though. Will the secure messaging interoperability trials work? Will the interoperability framework be accepted and the industry placated? And will moving 20 million people onto the national system succeed brilliantly or be a suppurating mess?

We'll see. In the meantime, one of the agency's big priorities is medicines safety and it has announced a few wins in this area recently, such as getting community pharmacy vendors, the Guild and the PSA on board with the MyHR. We also confirmed this week that the hospital pharmacy vendor Pharmhos is indeed busily uploading dispensed medicines records from public hospitals to the national system.

But can this be considered a measure of progress, let alone success? We reckon it's getting people actually using the system that is the real barometer, so it's pertinent perhaps to take a look at how our readers voted in last week's poll, which asked whether they thought busy retail pharmacists would take the time to look at their patients' MyHRs. While these polls are completely unscientific, on this measure at least it's not promising news: 32 per cent said yes, 68 per cent said no.

That brings us to our poll question for this week: Do you grade the agency's first year in operation a pass or a fail?

To vote in this poll sign up for our weekend edition or leave your comments below.


0 # WA Primary Health Alliance 2017-11-20 11:54
The acronym ADHA is already in use by the Australian Day Hospital Association hence the reason for the use of the Agency.

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