HotDoc hot to trot for Victoria

Melbourne-based online appointment booking and patient engagement platform HotDoc went on the front foot this week in a call to the Victorian government to consider its platform for the ramped-up COVID-19 vaccination program, which is now being extended to 40-49 year olds. It is even offering its solution to the Victorian government for free and reckons it can stand something up in 48 hours to help Victorians get vaccinated.

That’s a far cry from Microsoft’s efforts, which despite being awarded a $5 million contract for a vaccine management solution for Victoria last year still hasn’t yet gone live. This platform is more than just a booking solution but you’d have to say come on, Microsoft. It’s June already. We know that alternatives have been put into action in the meantime – Cerner, for instance, has been offering its solution to health service customers in Victoria for Phase 1a – but it beggars belief that Microsoft has been unable to get its solution sorted in the meantime.

The Age reported this week that there was no specific date for it to be in place, although the understanding is that it’s close. “An online vaccination booking system is currently under development and will be launched soon,” The Age quoted a Department of Health spokesperson saying.

HotDoc has been used for the pop-up respiratory clinics as well as its existing GP customers, and the company is running a very useful tally of how many appointments have been booked through its services – two million so far, it says – and how many have been fulfilled. This doesn’t tell the full story of course as appointments booked through other systems like HealthEngine, MyHealth1st and Healthsite aren’t included, but what it does show is that existing solutions that have been tried and tested in the private sector should be prioritised when procurement is being undertaken by the public sector.

It appears that Victoria will stick with the money it has invested in Microsoft, but really, it should not be this hard. New Zealand too has gone down the route of developing its own booking solution, which is still not ready, when existing solutions are available. We understand the desire for a complete solution that handles stock management, booking, immunisation register uploading and notification and vaccine serial number recording, but there are systems that can do all this already existing in part or in full.

Like the other booking solutions, HotDoc reckons it can handle dose one and two appointments, vaccine stock management, eligibility screening, consent forms, staff appointments, booking reminders and pre and post-appointment information, so Microsoft’s solution must have some extra elements that we are not aware of. The Victorian DHS told The Age that the Microsoft system was chosen because it presented a better pitch than other companies. “A platform developed by Microsoft was selected following an open, competitive tender process in which it scored well ahead of other submissions,” they said.

OK, but timeliness doesn’t seem to be among the selection criteria, despite the debate over the vaccine roll-out this week consisting of whether it is or is not a race. With Victoria extending its lockdown of Melbourne for another week, it is most definitely is.

Elsewhere, Waikato DHB announced it was gradually getting back up on its feet following the cyber incident over a fortnight ago. It has been painful progress for the health service but this week some good progress has been made. It is also apparent that this was a common albeit sophisticated financially motivated hack rather than a state-sponsored cyber attack as had been feared. Waikato is not paying a ransom, but it promises it is going to invest in ensuring this does not happen again.

That brings us to our weekly poll of readers. Last week, we asked: Is lack of adequate funding or lack of qualified staff the main cyber security challenge for healthcare? 46 per cent said funding, 27 per cent said staff, eight per cent said both, and 19 per cent offered alternative views.

These included comments on the lack of strategy, funding and knowledgeable staff. Others said many health executives don’t understand what good cybersecurity looks like and they think that even the basics are too much. There is also a lack of understanding of the problem and the consequences of poor solutions, readers says, as well as a lack of understanding of potential threats by management.

There is the “perverse belief of many executives and boards that it won't happen to me/us”, another said, but also that “they spend the money on the wrong things!” One reader summed it up by calling what the offenders do as digital terrorism.

This week we ask:

Are public health services defaulting to the big corporates for health IT solutions when locally developed solutions are readily available?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.


+1 # Jon Patrick 2021-06-05 10:44
You ask if public health uses the large vendors to the exclusion of the small vendors which is undoubtedly true. There are two barriers here, firstly convincing the executives you offer better value for money, even if you can get to them, but secondly the acquisition process that is mired in an approach to assessing technology as if it was built in the 1980s.
0 # Terry Hannan 2021-06-05 12:34
On the issues relating to managing epidemics here is a 2021 reference relating to the adaptability of a system that utilized the prior experiences of the EMR adaptation to Ebola. Please cite this article as: Mamlin BW, Shivers JE, Glober NK, Dick JJ, OpenMRS as an
Emergency EMR - How we used a Global Good to create an Emergency EMR in a Week,
International Journal of Medical Informatics (2021),
0 # Antony Sara 2021-06-05 16:35
Kate, all, it is not as simple as just recording a vaccination - that is reasonably easy - you must record it against the CORRECT person, because you need to send it to the AIR (immunisation register) against the uniquely identified CORRECT person - this identification is not always that easy and must be done in advance/at the same time
0 # Robert Dashwood 2021-06-05 21:27
There's existing solutions that do that. And some of them might use the IHI

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