Movers and shakers in a time of crisis

Sydney is under curfew, NSW as a whole is in lockdown, Victoria is holding steady, there are new restrictions in the ACT, the NT and New Zealand, and even Tasmania is foreshadowing the ominous things to come by releasing its lockdown protocol ahead of anything like a recent local infection.

Strange days indeed, and not likely to change in the immediate future. We hear that the Australasian Institute of Digital Health is shortly to announce it will go fully virtual with its planned half virtual/half in person hybrid conference in Melbourne this year, and will not be surprised if HINZ’s Digital Health Week NZ in-person conference scheduled for late November in Wellington suffers the same fate as NZ enters stage 4 lockdown and three new cases are reported in Welly today.

The big local news in digital health recently has been about staff movement, in particular with two long-time NEHTA/ADHA staffers jumping ship to Healthdirect Australia to work on its vaccine roll-out program. These two moves have caused a great deal of chatter in the industry, coming as they do in the wake of the enforced departure of other long term executives recently.

Rupert Lee and Christian Holmes were mainstays of NeHTA and ADHA for 15 years, but they have followed former chief clinical information officer Angela Ryan and Rodney Ecclestone – formerly head of quality, compliance and regulation at ADHA who has now been appointed director of clinical governance for eHealth NSW’s single digital patient record (SDPR) program – out the door. We understand that the former two were happy enough to follow long-time colleague Bettina McMahon over to Healthdirect and while a bit miffed, new ADHA CEO Amanda Cattermole continues to fulfil her brief to do a clean sweep and show some of the last remnants of NeHTA at the agency out the door.

Pulse+IT’s sources tell us there are a few views on what these moves presage: Greg Hunt’s orders to Ms Cattermole to phase out NeHTA staff; the Department of Health’s desire to move the agency back under the auspices; or just general public service goings-on, involving the eternal problem in search of a solution.

Changes are afoot in the ranks of health IT corporations as well, particular at EMR vendor Cerner recently. Cerner has moved along its long-standing APAC CEO Cameron Burt as well as its three state-based general managers in Australia, who have a combined service record of 43 years with the company. Cerner yesterday announced a new CEO for the global enterprise, just the third in its 43-year-history. It has appointed the relatively unknown David Feinberg, a medical doctor and previous Google Health and Geisinger Health executive, as its new president and CEO. Board chairman Donald Trigg has been terminated “effective immediately”.

Brutal stuff but not something that would normally affect us down this way, but when allied to a local restructure in the face of bids for multi-million dollar contracts for the SDPR in NSW, and the loss of a lucrative tender for a chemotherapy prescribing solution to rival Allscripts in South Australia just today, Cerner’s strategy in APAC is looking unclear.

Not so for Telstra Health, which is certain of its strategy even though the industry remains sceptical. It has appointed former Allscripts/Core Medical Solutions exec Marc Belej to a role in charge of software development for acute and virtual care, and we hear that a number of other initiatives are in the pipeline. Telstra Health continues to be of big interest to our readers, with its move to buy MedicalDirector one of the biggest stories of the year.

We had a huge response in the comments from our poll last week. Having been asked whether the acquisition was a good investment, almost three quarters of respondents (73%) said no.

The reasons were wide and varied – a lack of return on investment was cited a lot, as were the problems with Helix. It was interesting to see that some people thought it was a good investment citing interoperability as the reason, while similar numbers of people thought it was a bad investment for the very same reason.

“I think it will do MD a lot of good to finally get rid of its private equity owners and build a solid cloud product,” was one pertinent comment, as was “It's not MD3 they want, it's the installed base that can absorb newly interoperable products down the track.”

But overall, most people thought Telstra Health paid too much and we are inclined to agree.

That brings us to our poll question for this week:

Does the Australian Digital Health Agency need a clean sweep?

Vote and comment here or leave your comments below.


0 # Simon James 2021-08-23 11:45
In the day following this editorial Pulse+IT received the following comments via the poll ( in an optional comments section. Respondents were asked to elaborate on their views about the Australian Digital Health Agency. These comments are included (unedited) below:

- Ivory tower thinking simply eats up govt funds better spent in market. SMD is point in case it worked in 2013. Instead of building on that with EMRs, they reinvented it in 2017, and reinvented it again erroneously in 2020.

- We need need new thinking. Time to stop developing solutions and start creating standards and incentives to drive meaningful change and interoperabilit y.

- Needs greater involvement from telehealth and digital health experts with proven track records in Australia. Queensland has the COH, other states have similar expertise which often gets overlooked in ADHA activities. It’s a complex task, but achievable with the right approach and strategic collaboration.

- Hope not DOHA has suffered a huge brain drain and it’s ongoing

- Reduction on head count

- Priorities abs focus is all wrong. Frankly, commit the funds to supporting HealthTech startups / new tech instead.

- The recent departures will cause enough instability, further departures would put existing initiatives at risk

- After nearly ten years the ADHA has not delivered on the promise of massive savings and patient engagement from MyHR. The whole thing needs to be dumped and the Federal Government should leave healthcare service delivery to the states - where it belongs. The failure of NEHTA/ADHA (and the abysmal vaccine rollout) should be recognised for what they are - proof that the Department of Health is a policy department and it should stick to its remit. It should not mess with things it clearly doesn't understand.

- Adha have been asleep at the wheel during covid. Will that same sleepiness transfer to healthdirect

- Swallowed by DoH

- Cleaning out the known boys club.

- Has been top heavy organisation still in need of overhaul & yes likely will be absorbed into DoH

- Ineffective, takes too long to deliver meaningful projects

- New ideas for refreshment and measurable KPI's

- there has already been a clean sweep

- Already in process...

- New thinking needed. The Federal Government and its agencies (ADHA included) is incapable of delivering anything but policy.

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