When government digital systems work, they can work well

Pulse+IT is not alone in criticising certain digital platforms developed by various governments for healthcare and we are certainly not going to stop now, but we are happy to give credit where credit is due when it comes to good systems that appear to work. In particular, we’d like to laud the improvements made to myGov, which was an absolute trainwreck in its early days but has now become a reasonably seamless operation.

That being said, while it certainly works well for citizens with uncomplicated needs, it still has issues for complicated users – hello robodebt! In the area of health, however, the registration and tracking of COVID-19 vaccinations through the Australian Immunisation Register is pretty good, and it all links very well to My Health Record and Medicare online services. In our most recent experience, a record of a second dose of vaccine administered at 2.10pm on a Wednesday is available at 8.17am on the following Thursday on Medicare online and MyHR, according to the email we received from myGov at that time. It’s impressive.

And just this week, we discovered that you can also have your ready-made vaccine passport up and running in mainstream consumer applications including Apple Wallet and Google Pay, as well the My Health Record and Medicare Express Plus, although we must admit this was a bit of a hit and miss affair. For one user who is an Apple fan it was seamless, but for another who is new to it all it was non-intuitive, to say the least. (It didn’t work.)

It seems increasingly likely that a vaccination passport may be needed for entrance into large gatherings of people in the future, whether that be sporting or cultural events if not domestic travel, but resistance to the latter may fall away as there is no doubt that a vaccine passport will be required for international travel for the next few years. There a multitude of solutions out there, but interoperability is the key.

In other news this week, big changes are apparent in Cerner’s local operations. The largest electronic medical record vendor in the world has made a few changes in our little region, getting rid of its long-serving MD last month and its three general managers for NSW, Queensland and Victoria just this week. Cerner is at pains to tell us that this is part of a global restructure and that removal of the GMs is just ironing out a layer of bureaucracy between account managers and clients, but considering the size of those clients and the enormous sums they are paying for their EMRs, it doesn’t really bode well for the importance Cerner places on the APAC market.

We hear from one source that the change in middle management is all about Cerner in NSW securing the very lucrative single digital patient record (SDPR) contract, but how Queensland or Victoria come into play in that we don’t know. Queensland has paused it roll out of the ieMR for “optimisation” purposes and Victoria has long-standing issues with its deployments, but why these changes now, we are at a loss to know. Give us a bell if you have a theory.

Meanwhile and back on systems that work, we reported a couple of weeks ago that the NSW booking system was broken. Others have since reported similarly, and we were pleased to see a few capable people springing into action to help iron out a few kinks. The covidqueue.com system has been lauded but it only gives you access to appointments at four hospital-based mass vaccination clinics, and it is struggling to incorporate GP appointments too. With pharmacies coming online for walk-in vaccinations, this is probably the best bet for younger people in the near future.

Also last week, our poll question was about the COVIDSafe app, where we asked if you still had it on your phone had you downloaded it in the first place. 45 per cent said yes and 55 per cent no. That doesn’t bode well for the app considering what a digitally literate readership we have. It also backs up a report (PDF only) from independent experts who have long said that the government should have swapped over to the Google and Apple exposure notification framework (GAEN), as the British government did.

That being said, there’s not much evidence that even though the Brits did adopt the technology it has helped in any way, and as our government’s own report says, usage is not being measured. You can’t judge the value of a technology if you don’t even know how many people are using it.

That brings us to our poll question for this week:

Has the Australian government finally got it right using consumer tech for its vaccine passport?

Vote here or leave your comments below.


0 # DHHS Tasmania staffer 2021-08-07 16:42
At last, the Government seem to realise that working in concert with ubiquitous community tech such as Google & Apple has a further reaching and potentially better outcome than working in isolation - tech is NOT Governments' core business. It still amazes me that the Fed Gov could not stand up a single app to manage mass vaccinations - they had a year's head-start and ended up with a glorified electronic directory. No wonder there is such a mess of vaccs systems across Australian jurisdictions.. .
0 # Alison Johnson 2021-08-09 08:56
I downloaded the certificate without difficulty. I was concerned, though, that all the visible security measures that were noticeable within the mygov site, appeared to have been lost. Instead of a watermarked document, it became a one colour green affair.... which looked extremely easy to replicate. Anyone else have concerns?

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