Is ADHA a lame duck?
The big news in Australian digital health this week was the appointment of former Mater Health CIO and Queensland Health chief health information officer Mal Thatcher as the Australian Digital Health Agency’s new chief technology officer. The job calls for both strategic and operational leadership of the agency’s infrastructure operations division at a critical time as it looks to modernise the national infrastructure and replatform the My Health Record, starting with its API gateway.
Dr Thatcher is an excellent choice, having had a career in both strategy and operational IT, and he is very well respected and liked in the industry. He knows his stuff so we wish him well as a new executive team is built to replace the initial one put together by Richard Royle and Tim Kelsey. All of that team has now departed, with new CEO Amanda Cattermole given space to select her own.
However, apart from overseeing the MyHR, we are seriously pondering the overall purpose of ADHA. We are also hearing a lot of muttering in the wider digital health community about its role. Apart from electronic prescriptions and the service registration assistant it is developing, we are not too exactly what they are doing at the moment.
For the last six months or so the agency seems to have been concentrating mainly on unimaginative consumer campaigns and running interminable webinars. Leaders have different styles but Ms Cattermole is not adding much to its credibility by sending out weekly motivational missives to staff involving recipes for pineapple upside down cake and daggy duck jokes (What do you call a duck that steals? A robber ducky.) ADHA appears to be in a period of stasis, and as far as we can see has barely been called upon to help during one of the most devastating health emergencies in decades.
As one industry expert wrote to us recently: “Other than sending out weekly soft spin the agency has been very quiet. Not sure what its ongoing purpose is. It doesn't set policy, it's not building any more grand designs, it can't resolve the interoperability and messaging challenges, there is bugger all stakeholder engagement, so what's its ongoing role?"
Good question, and we’d like to put it to you. Apart from the My Health Record – which seriously needs some work, not just on its architecture but on its basic user experience, which is awful – is there much role for the agency in the coming year? For instance, should it be called upon to help with the COVID-19 vaccination program, which will be one of the largest public health programs the country has ever seen, or is this to be left in the uncertain hands of Services Australia, responsible for such towering achievements as the COVIDSafe app, robodebt and the issuing of renewal forms for Medicare PKI certificates that cannot accept digital signatures and instead must be hand-signed and sent in the post?
We’d like to get your views on this, so we are asking:
What would you like to see the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) achieve in 2021?
You can leave your comments anonymously here, and we’ll collate them and report back next week. Feel free to let fly with your pent-up criticisms or constructive feedback.
In our last poll in 2020 we asked: Will telehealth or ePrescriptions have the biggest impact on the health system in 2021? Readers were pretty much split: 52 per cent said telehealth while 48 per cent plumped for ePrescriptions.