HIE for Victoria as it moves on information sharing

Victoria has moved along at a rapid pace in releasing a tender this week for its planned health information exchange (HIE), the first step towards streamlining access to medical records across the public hospital system. As locals like to argue incessantly, Victoria’s devolved public health system has positives and negatives, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly shown up that disparate information systems and services can be a drag on a unified pandemic response.

As such, earlier this year the Crisis Council of Cabinet agreed to a plan to consolidate pathology services across Victoria, including the different laboratory information systems (LIS) that are used in the state, of which we are aware of at least four, all in various instances that do not speak to others. NSW is in a similar situation, and it is looking to consolidate its LIS systems through the NSW Single Digital Patient Record (SDPR), the successful vendor for which is due to be announced shortly.

While NSW appears to be pursuing a single LIS approach, Victoria doesn’t appear to be following a single LIS path, but instead is looking to develop the ability for each system to feed data into a consolidated view that all relevant clinicians can access, irrespective of site or platform.

In 2018, Victoria announced it had hoped to roll out a clinical information sharing platform for a far wider selection of public hospital clinical information. It turns out that this needs legislative change, which is currently before state parliament, so the present HIE is restricted to pathology information.

That makes sense – it is utterly ridiculous that hospital clinicians cannot access pathology information at their fingertips – but it has not stopped the usual suspects from the privacy lobby from making a noise. We have argued before and we will argue again that the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) does itself no favours by indulging in conspiracy theories which are easily shot down by people who know what they are talking about.

(The APF once insisted to Pulse+IT that a routine survey of GPs by the Department of Health was a breach of privacy laws because it was conducted through SurveyMonkey, a US company, and therefore the data would leave our shores. That it was not patient data but personal opinions seemed to have escaped the APF. It doesn’t seem to have improved since.)

So pathology data is first off the rank for Victoria, and from then it will be expanded to provide a statewide view. More difficult will be the passage of legislation allowing mental health data to be shared – this might hold up the legislation currently before parliament somewhat.

Elsewhere, there has been progress on electronic prescriptions – ADHA tells us that 27 million have now been issued – and software vendors are also lining up to get ready for the change to Medicare Web Services. We’ve written a few stories on vendors that are now compliant – from billing services first out of the blocks like claiming.com.au to medical specialist vendor Clinic to Cloud, and just this week to GP software vendor Medtech and hospital billing market leader PowerHealth Solutions. We are not likely to keep running individual stories until Best Practice and MedicalDirector are live, so we suggest you consult Services Australia and its compliant product list.

After another horror year for the health and aged care sectors, we had hoped that with COVID vaccination rates in Australia and New Zealand now at admirable levels that the argy bargy of politics would take a backwards step. No such luck: the new National Aged Care Advisory Council set up to advise the federal government on its response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has been announced. Business people, aged care CEOs, lobbyists and former MPs are all accounted for.

However, the only clinicians on the panel are a geriatrician and a nutritionist, despite the fact that the big issue with aged care besides funding is workforce. There is not one aged care nurse on the panel, not one GP and not one pharmacist, and nor are there any technology experts besides former Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley. It does not bode well.

We got a big reaction to our poll question last week which asked whether you thought interoperability between different secure messaging products was worth pursuing. Most people are still keen: 85 per cent said yes, 15 per cent said no. Here are some of your thoughts.

This week, we ask:

Are the government’s aged care reforms doomed to failure?

Vote here or leave your comments below.

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