A marriage of two minds
This week's big, although not unexpected, news was the announcement that HISA and ACHI were thinking of getting together for a bit of formal cooperation. The move has been rumoured for some years, and it makes a lot of sense. For such a small industry there are quite a few different professional organisations if you include HIMAA and wider groups like AIIA as well.
ACHI has always considered itself the peak as an academic college but it has suffered in the past from a lack of administrative support, relying as it does almost entirely on volunteers. HISA on the other hand has an extremely good organisational structure and has proved itself adept at managing the various conferences and local networking events it runs.
Both groups lack a strong lobbying capability that organisations such as the MSIA excel at, but they have worked together closely in the past on developing credentials such as CHIA and the 2015 workforce summit, both in association with HIMAA. There's no doubt that developing a path for the future digital health workforce is essential to the industry and ACHI's academic base could help strengthen HISA's larger hand in this endeavour.
There will of course be plenty of people who are opposed and think ACHI should remain independent lest it lose it identity, and there is also the question of the relationship with New Zealand. ACHI is an Australasian college and has quite a few Kiwi members, so how the relationship of a merged organisation with HiNZ is managed will be interesting.
There are also those who would prefer the hierarchy to remain, with ACHI considering itself the authoritative body for health informatics as an academic pursuit, and HISA more a network of colleagues with an industry focus. We think there's a good argument that they'll be stronger together.
The acronym soup brings to mind that beyond the three main organisations that have a public health and acute care focus, there are quite a few disparate associations with an interest in digital health for the primary and aged care sectors as well. There is an Aged Care Industry IT Council, which is getting more serious recently and has appointed eHealth veteran George Margelis to chair it. The RACGP has its eHealth expert committee and the Australian Association of Practice Management does a lot of work at the pointy end of primary care digital health.
These groups have a lot of practical skills rather than an academic focus and are using digital solutions in their day to day work. Quite a few people working in the area, including GPs and practice managers, are active on Pulse+IT Facebook Chat site, where they are sharing a lot of practical advice. This week, we had queries about how to continue using an analogue fax machine when swapping to the NBN, and a chat about a Melbourne general practice that is using Healthsite's check-in app to reduce waiting times. If you haven't already, you should take a look.
The other big stories this week were Allscripts going live with what is thought to be the first EMR in Australia hosted in Microsoft's Azure cloud – if it's not the first, let us know – and reports from secure messaging service vendors in Victoria that there is increased activity in clinical document exchange between different providers using different systems.
That brings us to our poll question for this week. Do you support the merger of HISA and ACHI?
Last week, we asked: Should the ePIP be extended to specialist physician practices? This one was close: 47 per cent said yes, 53 per cent said no.