Getting with the mass vax program
As the Phase 1a vaccination roll-out began this week in Australia, we had a quick chat to some of the head honchos at Cerner Asia Pacific about how the EMR vendor was helping its users in Australia get with the program. Cerner started working on a mass vaccination solution for its global clients in the middle of last year having foreseen that this would prove somewhat useful, and it has since swung into action and rolled it out in the US and the UK, which is acting as a reference site for Australian users.
Cerner sites such as Royal Prince Alfred, Liverpool and Westmead hospitals in Sydney and The Alfred in Melbourne began using the COVID-19 vaccination update that Cerner has tailored for the local market this week, with vaccination data able to be extracted and uploaded to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). We hear that a couple of Queensland hospitals are also using the new capability.
Cerner has made these updates available for free and other EMR vendors are also offering this sort of capability, so it remains a bit of a mystery as to why some jurisdictions have chosen to procure new, standalone solutions. Victoria, perhaps spooked by the troubles it had with its contact tracing solution during the second wave when it turned down a Salesforce offer, issued a quick-fire tender for a vaccination management system in November last year.
As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Victoria gave that contract to Microsoft in a $5.8 million deal. However, we hear that having to get used to a new solution hasn’t gone down too well with some Victorian clinicians, and that a similar solution for Queensland isn’t quite ready to rock and roll just yet. If you know any more, feel free to tip us off anonymously.
General practices will very shortly find out if they’ve been chosen to take part in Phase 1b. More than 5000 practices put their hands up in an expression of interest, which is a bit of a surprise considering the physical and staffing requirements in the EOI document. We also hear that work is in earnest getting a data exchange between the various online booking solutions and Healthdirect Australia up and running for Greg Hunt’s promised single front door for booking a shot. Mr Hunt had his hands full this week with the unfortunate start to the residential aged care vaccination roll-out, so it comes as welcome news that former Australian Digital Health Agency COO Bettina McMahon has been appointed as the new new Healthdirect Australia CEO. It will be in safe hands with her.
Speaking of ADHA, we understand that the agency’s new management has let go the last remaining senior executives from the NeHTA days, and that a bunch of private contractors have not had their contracts renewed. ADHA issued a firm no comment to Pulse+IT when we asked, but we do know that an HR consultant with extensive public service experience has been given a six-month contract at the agency. More redundancies are expected.
In other news this week, the Australasian Institute of Digital Health released its position statement calling for global agreement on standards for the planned vaccination passports or COVID travel passes. Hot on the heels of that came news that Air New Zealand would trial the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass system, joining Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and, later in the week, RwandAir, the first African airline to join.
We covered this in our poll last week, asking if you thought the world would agree on a global standard for an international vaccine passport. Readers were evenly split: 51 per cent said yes, 49 per cent said no. On the preferred models for a vaccine passport, suggestions included a system similar to the one used by the WHO for yellow fever and other vaccinations, a blockchain model, QR codes linked to legitimate health information sources, and even a book with immunisations listed and a tick box.
With lots of concerns raised over potential discrimination if such a passport was used locally, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has issued some guidance that employers might want to have a look at.
However, our most popular story by far this week was Telstra Health’s announcement it was bringing TELUS Health's information exchange platform to Australia from Canada. It plans to first use it to let Telstra Health’s technologies talk to each other through APIs, and then offer it to third party software vendors to have a play on. It will be very interesting to see if this platform can do for Telstra Health what it set out seven years ago to do and finally bring about a joined-up healthcare ecosystem. It certainly sounds like the right way to go.
That brings us to our poll question for this week:
Is a vaccine passport an invasion of privacy?
Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.