A tale of two comments

The My Health Record was back in the news this week as Department of Health and Australian Digital Health Agency officials were forced to undergo yet another gruelling bout of interrogation from the same Senate committee that put them through the wringer not six weeks ago.

Having handed down a report last Thursday recommending that the My Health Record opt-out period be suspended or extended for another year – an idea that was promptly rejected by Health Minister Greg Hunt last week – the same faces fronted up to Senate Estimates on Wednesday, with the same result. The only news was that about 240,000 more people had opted out since the last time the question was asked.

DoH deputy secretary Caroline Edwards said that if slower trend of people opting out continued, it would mean that by November 15, less than five per cent of the population had decided it was a no-go. The reaction to the headline figure of 1.14 million was illustrative – there were all the usual variations on 'bungle' and 'debacle' from those who thought it was a bad result, and pretty much just silence from those who thought otherwise.

The differing views on the meaning of the numbers can be summed up by two comments on our story: one couldn't believe that the government would think it acceptable that five per cent of the population had opted out, and another couldn't believe that it was so few.

We'll see whether the new member for Wentworth and MyHR critic Kerryn Phelps manages to achieve in the next three weeks, but it seems highly likely that nothing will slow the bandwagon before November 15. There will be a month of reconciliation of paper forms, and then 18 million new records will be created.

Then perhaps ADHA can get on with the digital health revolution and all that innovating that we've been promised. We hear that this whole lamentable exercise has been so fraught for the agency that it has brought the place to a standstill, although we did spot a little bit of activity this week. ADHA is moving its Sydney headquarters from the stunning end of Pitt St to the relative doldrums of Liverpool St and has put out a EOI for ideas on whether to build an “immersive space” on one level so visitors can get all up to date with the innovative innovations.

“This space will provide a platform for the Agency to communicate in an innovative, collaborative way aligned to the various user cohorts visiting as a meaningful experience,” the EOI promises. We hope this immersive experience doesn't turn out like the infamous NEHTA truck that used to trundle all over the countryside and that they do a bit better job on communicating these meaningful experiences than they did on opt-out.

Meanwhile, our most popular story this week was Fred IT's successful bid to build a national data exchange for real-time prescription monitoring, in a result that came as no surprise. New Zealand's BPAC Informatics also had a win with its bid for the GP eReferrals component of Queensland Health's statewide referral management program. This will be an interesting program to watch as it tries to solve a problem that other states are working on too.

And in big data news, HISA held its Health Data Analytics conference in Melbourne this week, where we were presented with the unexpected news that hospital EMRs can actually be quite useful. Two paediatric hospitals – one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, one using Epic and the other Cerner – are putting their data scientists to work to use EMR data to help with clinical decision making and improve patient care. Wonders will never cease.

That brings us to our poll for this week: are hospital EMRs finally proving their worth?

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

Last week, we asked if the software market was fulfilling practice needs. Not according to 64 per cent of our respondents. Just 36 per cent said yes.

Tags: My Health Record

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