Tech for COVID care in the community is there, but where is the money?

As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus plunges the world into new waves of restrictions and reinforces that COVID-19 is here to stay, governments around the world are struggling to communicate a long-term plan for living with the virus. This is most obvious in the public squabbles over vaccine mandates and passports, but also in shifting the burden from acute to primary care.

It is very clear that we will need to live with COVID-19 in the community for the foreseeable future, and we very much need to come up with long-term solutions on how to manage it as efficiently and financially sustainably as possible. The obvious answer is in technology solutions, of which there are many but which very much need to be backed up by long-term workforce reforms and needless to say, a bit of cash.

For the most part, the coronavirus has been handled by experts who tend to be expensive: immunologists, epidemiologists, pathologists, infectious diseases physicians, critical care doctors and nurses, general practitioners. What we will need in the future is less expensive, community-based care, using existing technology solutions that can be extended for new models of care and for new workforces.

We featured two such solutions this week and we have more to come: Coviu and The Clinician partnering for a solution for GPs and practice nurses to handle COVID+ patients in the community, and Ballarat Health Services, which is extending an existing, low-cost solution for hospital in the home to monitor COVID patients.

The Ballarat solution sounds like a good one: existing technology being used for hospital in the home, that can be used by a non-clinical workforce and already has runs on the board. There is enormous potential for this sort of model of care and the technology vendor has been at it for years.

There is also CareMonitor in western Sydney and western Victoria, or others like Gippsland PHN’s program using the Lifeguard system to monitor people at home.

We’ll have another story next week on what Bendigo Health is doing for COVID home monitoring, but basically, we are still at a loss as how these solutions and projects will be paid for long term. We are also still at a loss as to what the Australian government is funding with its $180 million for COVID care in the community: it still just seems to be danger money for GPs to see COVID+ patients face to face. Quite frankly, it has not been well thought through.

The New Zealand government is in the same boat, saying it is keen to move COVID care into the community and out of its incredibly expensive managed isolation and quarantine service. Unfortunately, it has not been overly forthcoming on how it expects GPs to handle COVID in the community. The MIQ solution being provided by Valentia Technologies’ Indici is said to be in the process of being integrated into general practice management systems, but how this will work in practice is not yet fully understood.

Meanwhile, the Australian government is promising it will promote the next round of booster shots through digital means like MyGov. Sorry to say it but we’ve already received word of this by snail mail, which is highly likely to be read more than some terror-inducing SMS from MyGov.

And finally, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced today that he was retiring from politics, despite insisting not a month ago that he was “preselected and running”. As we reported earlier in the week, in his time Mr Hunt oversaw the move to an opt-out My Health Record, the lifting of the seven-year pause on Medicare indexation, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality, and the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine strategy.

We reckon you should be the judge on whether or not he has been effective, so that’s our poll question for the week.

Was Greg Hunt a good health minister?

Vote here or leave your comments below.

Last week, we asked: Are the government’s aged care reforms doomed to failure? Big time, our readers say: 92 per cent said yes, just eight per cent saying no. We also asked why you thought so and whether the advisory council was unrepresentative. Here’s what you had to say.


+1 # Kate McDonald 2021-12-10 15:11
So was Greg Hunt a good health minister? 58 per cent said yes, 42 per cent said no. We also asked why you thought so, or why not.

- He failed on his biggest test to manage vaccination of Australia against COVID. Poor decisions on vaccine purchase and insufficient strategies to roll out the vaccine left Aust exposed when the Delta strain emerged.

- Did not effectively lead the approach to covid

- Did not diversify our vaccine options, asleep at the wheel too often

- I have a rare autoimmune immune disease and it was a one size fits all. I had a serious reaction but unless it was an immediate anaphylactic reaction instead of now for me week 10 of reaction. Ii released in chronic pain and fatigue, no one has any idea what it has done to my body and I can’t get an exemption and there was no research or answers to my emails

- Clear consistent messaging and strategic thought

- Always band-aid reactive responses

- Did nothing to advance the use of tech. Pandered to the AMA and Pharma industry.

- Never sought views of gp’s

- Vaccine strollout

- As a lawyer/politici an he was totally dependent on his department, which lives in its own little bubble far removed from the coalface of healthcare. Put together, they didn't know what to do and what they did do they did badly. Aged care is a mess, the COVID-SAFE app was a complete dud, and people died because of their inability to source and distribute vaccines effectively and efficiently. He's probably leaving before the MyHR shit really hits the fan.

- Almost 2 years of COVID in Australia with only 2000 related deaths. Compare that to any other country globally? It’s very easy to criticise, but the results speak for themselves!!

- Promoted government over reach in the handling of Covid 'pandemic'; implemented wrong policy to handle the outbreak (should have focused on early treatment, education and targeted (not widespread) vaccination programs.

- The MyHealthRecord debacle and covid vaccination lack of rollout preparation happened on his watch

- ...if he makes telehealth reimbursements permanent before he leaves, we'll get the beginnings of a digital transformation for the sector!

- Unhappy with mandatory medical procedures even though from a PR point of view the Federal Government claimed they were not. Indirectly and in reality they very much are when your employment and ability to live and consume is affected so significantly.

- Incredible response to COVID - thank you

- Morrison is to blame for many of the stuff ups, while Hunt worked in the background to cover for him. I saw a report on Jan 4, 2020 which was endorse by Hunt to cabinet based on the WHO's assessment of COVID being a deadly (2.4-3.5%) highly transmissible disease . The recommendation way back then was to institute tighter clinical controls at our borders with a view that we should plan for a border closure within days at longest weeks. Hunt has been a tireless foot soldier when he should have been in charge. Worst health minister of all time would be Peter Dutton. Imagine if Dutton had still been health minister - it wouldn't just be a squabble with the states it would be all out civil war over the lack of delivery. Lastly, Hunt was an advocate for the research and innovation in Health. He manage to sustain this despite Morrison's incompetence. So, Hunt gets a yes as it could have been an even worse situation.

- There is only 1 top job in a pandemic: Get the best Vaccine as early as possible. He failed.

- Done a lot for the PBS listings

- Not transparent and owning up to failures.

- He successfully reviewed and listed multiple life saving/life changing medicines on the PBS

- Under his watch he agreed to co-fund agreements around genetics which is forward thinking of him. Just with my jurisdiction was.

- I just don't think he's been truthful about pretty much everything.

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