Health IT still very much a WIP

The IT solutions behind Australia’s and New Zealand’s COVID-19 responses have come in for some questioning over the 18 months of the pandemic, and no one seems to agree on whether they have proven to be effective or not, whether it be mobile phone proximity apps like Australia’s COVIDsafe (general consensus: dud) or QR code check-in systems (thumbs up).

They all do appear to be quite expensive though, which is nothing new, and as always when there are copious amounts of public money on offer, hands immediately reach out. This has never been more true than in the roll-out of online booking, inventory management, and vaccination registration systems on a jurisdictional and national scale.

The most recent flurry was sparked this week by a LinkedIn post from Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae, who is relentless in his campaign against the New Zealand government’s choices when it comes to its vaccination solutions. NZ is rebuilding its whole immunisation register and will eventually consolidate it for all child and adult vaccination histories, but in the meantime has implemented an interim COVID-19 Immunisation Register (CIR) that this week included a new ordering and inventory portal.

It also provided a bit more detail this week on how the new national vaccination booking solution, dubbed Book My Vaccine, will work. This is a Salesforce-based system that is part of the larger National Immunisation Solution, which has a price tag in advance of $35m, quite a sum for NZ.

Mr McCrae tried a bit of old-fashioned sledging this week when he linked to a post saying NSW had rolled out a solution for between $1 and $3m, and recommending that NZ should ditch its new system for the same. Now, NSW may have rolled out a system involving digital signage from Brisbane firm Five Faces at some of its mass vaccination centres recently, but it is in no way a statewide solution, and as one of Pulse+IT’s Sydney operatives reports, it has its own problems.

While Mr McCrae may be trying in his post to goad the Ministry of Health into changing direction, sideswipes about Australia leading the pack are probably not the best idea. Pulse+IT’s Tasmanian contingent found booking for a Pfizer vaccine easy enough through its Oracle solution, but others have not been so lucky. Neither NSW nor Victoria, the most populous and hardest hit states during the pandemic, have statewide solutions. Victoria was supposed to roll out a $5m Microsoft pandemic management system but has failed to do so, and NSW is in pretty much the same boat.

This is evidenced by appointment booking service HotDoc’s announcement this week that it was entering the hospital market and rolling out solutions for Austin Health in Melbourne and St Vincent’s in Sydney, two of the largest hospitals in the country. HotDoc has been kicking some massive goals this year.

Elsewhere this week, we learned that specialist medical practice software vendor Genie Solutions is indeed planning on listing on the Australian stock exchange, although we doubt that the tech bro branding approach is the right one for the medical software market. The same can be said for MedicalDirector, which is still in the market for a buyer and this week launched MedicalDirector TV featuring – you guessed it – blokes in T-shirts trying to sell medical software as something revolutionary. Medical software is not sexy or cool, guys, so don’t throw out the suits just yet.

Probably the biggest story this week in Australian health IT was the release of more detail about the Australian Digital Health Agency’s new Provider Connect Australia (PCA) service. We actually think this will prove quite useful in the long run, but the revelation that Medicare integration will not be achieved in the foreseeable future due to Service Australia’s healthcare payments platform modernisation project might take a few winds out of sails.

This will probably prove a slow burner of a project but we think it will be worthwhile in the end, and it’s all being paid for by ADHA – besides integration costs for subscribing and publishing software vendors, of course. Hopefully that means that the usual demands by vendors for government handouts should be dulled a bit. Good luck if not.

That brings us to our poll question for the week. Last week, we asked: Will ADHA be able to successfully deliver the Provider Connect Australia tool? Pulse+IT readers don’t seem to have a great deal of faith in ADHA’s delivery capabilities. Two-thirds (67 per cent) said no.

This week we ask:

Have you had a good experience booking your COVID vaccination?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.


0 # Richard Horton 2021-07-07 20:06
I walked in without booking for both jabs.
0 # Simon James 2021-07-08 11:02
In what setting did you manage to have such good luck? Based on my personal experience that would have saved you several hours of stuffing around with poorly implemented IT. Having received my first dose of Pfizer on Saturday towards the end of the day, it did occur to me to try and get my partner vaccinated as a walk-in patient, but the facility ran a very tight ship in terms of the number of spare doses so this wasn't possible.

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