Behold, the NIMP

The big news this week was the moves underway to put electronic prescriptions on the same legal footing as paper scripts, with the Department of Health announcing its plans for the required regulatory changes and the Australian Digital Health Agency releasing some draft documents laying out the proposed solution architecture.

The department is insistent that ePrescriptions will be available this year, with a so-called “success statement” included in its documentation stating that “by October 2019 the electronic prescribing project will allow an electronic prescription to progress from prescribe through to dispense and claim in an electronic format”.

Health Minister Greg Hunt seems convinced of this – he told the Australian Journal of Pharmacy in July that he expects the “national Australian e-prescribing network” will be up and running before the end of 2019 – but we're not. The regulatory changes may be made and the software configurations agreed to, but we can't see it getting up that quickly. This is the healthcare industry, and that's not how it works.

Either way, everyone agrees that paper will be around for some time yet. According to the proposed architecture, when their doctor writes a prescription the patient will be sent a token by email or by SMS to their phone, which is then scanned in at their pharmacy, just like airline boarding passes are. But just like airline tickets, lots of people will still prefer a print-out so we expect paper to last for some years.

In other news, there will be a few changes made this weekend to the My Health Record, with pathology and diagnostic imaging reports set to be grouped together in respective overview folders. They'll be sorted by test or examination name or by date, so it should make it easier for clinicians to go to the right document without having to look through them all.

The pathology and diagnostic imaging views will be similar to the existing medicines view, which provides a consolidated summary of the most recent medicines information from the various documents uploaded by GPs, hospitals, pharmacies and consumers, and which ADHA says has proved popular with clinicians.

Speaking of documents, ADHA has released its promised request for information for the proposed re-platforming of the national infrastructure underpinning the My Health Record, or as the agency is calling it, the National Infrastructure Modernisation Program. We dislike the word “re-platforming” and are suckers for a good acronym, so the NIMP it is.

The RFI talks about the need to break “the clinical document paradigm” with a greater emphasis on capturing structured data and better managing unstructured data. It also emphasises the ability to engage with national systems through multiple channels, mainly through APIs.

There'll be an industry briefing in Canberra in a fortnight which will be video recorded, and the closing date for the RFI is in early December. We'll have more on that next week.

Finally, as we near the end of the year and the decade, we thought you might enjoy this look back at IT in the 1990s from Health Data Management magazine. It's not strictly healthcare but it's fun. Inspired by a post on German vendor Paessler's blog, it includes a recollection of the Y2K bug that many of us will remember fondly.

One commenter on the Paessler blog is an Australian, who posted this comment: “In 2013, I was working for a not-for-profit hospital chain in Australia. One of the main file servers on-site in Tasmania was proudly adorned with a ‘Y2k OK’ sticker. I had to laugh because I remembered all those nights in the late 1990s spent crawling around obscure sites checking devices for compliance, and here was a hospital in Tasmania with a 13-plus-year-old file server, still running, still rock-solid.”

That brings us to our poll question for the week: Do you think the national ePrescribing system will be functional before year's end?

Sign up to our weekend edition or Pulse+IT Chat to vote, or leave your thoughts below.

Last week, we asked Do you think secure messaging is really more reliable than fax? Yes, the vast majority say: 82 per cent to 18 per cent saying no.

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