Canberra beckons Mr Popularity Contest

The week in eHealth kicked off with the return of an old face at the helm of the health ministry in Canberra with Greg Hunt – or Greg “I came third in a popularity contest with Steve Ciobo” Hunt as we like to call him – taking up his old position on the front bench.

How that is so after first throwing his hat into the ring with Peter Dutton, then declaring undying loyalty to Malcolm Turnbull before having to swear fealty to the new boss in Scott Morrison we don't know, but it just goes to show that no matter how diminished you are as a politician in the eyes of the electorate, the media and your own party, a cushy spot on the green leather lounge is still yours if no one else wants the portfolio.

The week then got a bit more interesting with the news that ACT Health has gone to market for a new laboratory information system, having been promised $11 million in the 2018-19 budget to pay for it. That's quite a lot of money for a system that needs to look after only three hospitals, and the discussion on our Pulse+IT Chat Facebook group about the tender naturally turned to why the Health Directorate doesn't just plump either for an upgrade or hook into the NSW Health Pathology system rather than buy a new one.

That's probably because the ACT has some big plans over the next few years, as outlined in its digital health strategy 2018-2028. A draft of this was released for public consultation a couple of months back although when we asked for a copy, a rather officious type from the media office told us no. We got a copy anyway and it makes for reasonably interesting reading.

There's the usual vision statement and fluffy verbiage about transforming health outcomes, but overall the main thrust is that Canberra is looking to put some significant investments into technology, with the four priority areas being digital clinical systems – including an integrated digital health record – diagnostic and medications services, digital corporate and operational systems, and a new collaboration and communications platform.

The 2018-19 budget released funds for a bit of this. In addition to the LIS, a tender went out last week for a new fleet of clinical devices to handle the new clinical communications platform that will replace the old paging system. There is also money for a purchasing and inventory control system, from the corporate and operational stream. A lot of money is also going into the new University of Canberra Hospital, which will try out some digital wayfinding and patient flow solutions for the rest of ACT Health.

What exactly the digital health record will entail we'll have to wait and see. Our understanding was that they would be using the Infomedix scanned medical record for the time being but it would make sense to make the switch to a full EMR sooner rather than later, perhaps piggy-backing on what NSW Health is doing.

Speaking of which, we had an update from eHealth NSW CEO/CIO Zoran Bolevich this week. He tells us that the NSW digital health strategy has been going well, including good progress with the Cerner roll out (eMR2), electronic medications management (eMeds) and the new Metavision intensive care solution, which NSW calls eRIC. We also hear there's some movement on a new maternity system and antenatal record of care as well.

Now, as it peers over “horizon one” in its digital health strategy, NSW is turning its attention to integrated care and basic things like eReferrals and improving discharge summaries out to GPs. It is also getting into the new big thing of patient reported measures, which will be interesting to watch.

Of course, the NSW treasury is drowning in bucket loads of money at the moment and NSW Health a pretty large budget for IT, but we think that during the tenure of the current government, it has used its money wisely. NSW too plans to have a single patient record by 2021, and it seems highly likely it will get there.

We also heard from the Australian Digital Health Agency this week, with the news it is planning to appoint a chief digital officer. Looking at the job description, this is a pretty high-level position that requires not just extensive technical and design skills but also management and communication skills that few would have. They are looking for someone with industry or vendor experience who can be the chief of design but also be the face of the agency on loads of committees. They must also be the inevitable “thought leader” – as soon as that term dies out the better – for digital within the agency itself. We can think of people who'd have one or two of the skill sets required but few with all of them at once. We imagine they might have someone in mind already.

Meanwhile, all has gone quiet on the My Health Record front as expected, but never fear – that will all pick up again when parliament reconvenes on September 10 and Mr Popularity Contest returns to Canberra for what should be a pretty good grilling over the government's handling of My Health Record opt-out. While they are hiring, ADHA might consider looking for a chief marketing officer for that particular program as well.

That brings us to our poll for this week: Was Greg Hunt the right choice for health minister?

Sign up to our weekend edition to vote or leave your thoughts below.

Our poll last week asked: Do you think healthcare will be the top federal election issue? Nope, according to the vast majority. 72.6 per cent said no, while 27.4 per cent remained optimistic.

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