ANNAs flattening the curve

If like Pulse+IT these days you are getting your jollies hunting down maps and graphs of the coronavirus outbreak, you might have come across the great work being done by Financial Times data-visualisation journalist John Burn-Murdoch. Each day, he tweets out multiple visualisations of the pandemic and its growth in multiple countries, large and small.

He likes to keep his eye on the disasters in Italy, Spain, the UK and the US of course, but also regularly mentions certain countries that appear to have managed the outbreak pretty well, especially the ANNAs: Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Austria.

The graph pictured at the left showing New Zealand plummeting off the graph was retweeted last week by Eric Topol with a cheery “New Zealand knows how to do it!” (To which one wit replied that it was New Zealand's natural instinct to disappear off the bottom of any map as fast as possible.) For graph nerds, the ABC has some lovely stuff on Australian stats here.

Australia and New Zealand have certainly done extremely well so far, excepting a few hiccups like allowing passengers off the Ruby Princess cruise ship and a certain St Patrick's Day celebration at the Matamata pub. With elective surgery restarting in Australia and New Zealand easing to stage three lockdown next week, things are looking up.

Our coverage of the week in the health IT world continues to be dominated by the virus as well, with our most popular stories this week all about the new technologies being fast-tracked to help out. Genie Solutions has brought forward its telehealth solution to help its medical specialists customers with the new virtual world, offering a full platform with online appointment booking functionality through a partnership with HotDoc along with a new payment system and online new patient registration.

HotDoc was also in the news with its fast-tracked roll-out of booking functionality for the pop-up respiratory clinics being set up around Australia, of which there are about 40 now. Patients can find a clinic near them and book a time that suits them online. Each clinic's site also includes guidance for the patient on what to do once they arrive.

The partnership between telehealth provider Coviu and medications app developer Rosemary Health was also popular. This new venture will allow practices to get a start using telehealth if they're not already and take advantage of the new digital script rules. It is also ready to go when electronic scripts are available, and Rosemary is one of a number of new services that can arrange medications delivery to people's homes all through an app.

Pharmacists themselves were given the go-ahead to do home medicine reviews by telehealth this week. As we've seen with all other healthcare professions, the virus has caused a massive and very fast move to digital in the community pharmacy sector. Tasmanian pharmacist Shane Jackson told the Australasian Institute of Digital Health's From the frontlines telehealth conference this week that community pharmacy was experiencing truly transformational change, with most now seeing the majority of prescriptions coming in by fax or email. We'll have more from that conference next week.

And in not so welcome news for the long and landmine-filled history of health IT projects in Queensland, another one has bitten the dust. The $64 million replacement of the state's Auslab laboratory information system with a new one from US firm Sunquest is no longer going ahead, with $36m of the budget spent. While Queensland Health cited the coronavirus as one reason for calling it off, we hear a little differently and understand that the project went off the rails last year. If you know any more, give us a tip (you can do it anonymously).

In our poll last week we asked: Will you use electronic scripts over paper scripts when they become available? That was a big no-brainer, with 92 per cent saying yes. Eight per cent said no, but we're not sure why.

This week, we ask: Has the health IT industry successfully risen to the challenge of COVID-19?

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

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