Flood disaster should be where My Health Record shines

The devastation inflicted on northern NSW and Queensland during the floods over the last fortnight has been heartbreaking to watch. Having spent some time in Kyogle and the northern rivers of NSW as well as southern Queensland, Pulse+IT is finding it hard to imagine the horror that the people and animals of the region have gone through.

While tertiary health services seem to have survived quite well, the same can’t be said for the fate of many primary healthcare providers, who are after all the lifeblood of regional communities. General practices, pharmacies, community and Aboriginal health centres and allied health have had their premises and their businesses swamped and destroyed. The pictures of elderly people from residential aged care facilities still dressed in their pyjamas being rescued in dinghies and carried to safety by locals and Pacific Island seasonal workers is reassuring. The images of the total destruction of the town of Lismore is not.

Stories are now filtering through about how the public and their healthcare providers are dealing with access to essential health information in the face of the loss of medical records. One GP from Lismore reports that the practice’s server and back-up server were both swamped and out of commission, pharmacies have been deluged and their stock destroyed, and aged care facilities have had to abandon their homes and move their residents to higher ground.

This is where something like the My Health Record should come into its own to provide information such as up to date medicines lists and information for clinicians on diagnoses and conditions. We haven’t heard much about MyHR being used so far but would be keen to, so if you have a story, let us know.

Telehealth is certainly being harnessed for the disaster: the restrictions on MBS-funded telehealth that mean doctors must have seen their patients face to face in the previous 12 months have been dropped for people in certain flood-affected areas, and organisations like the Northern NSW PHN, Healthy North Coast, have reminded people that they are providing a 24-7 telehealth service to affected people for free.

Healthy North Coast has commissioned Partnered Health – formerly known as Fullerton Health Group and comprising the general practice network previously owned by Healthscope – to provide phone-based healthcare. Those GPs in the region who are able to provide telehealth from their clinics or their homes are able to do so without restriction. How they access medical records or bill is another matter. We wish them all well.

Meanwhile, the Australian Department of Health has decided to decommission the national booking solution announced with much fanfare in late 2020 for the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. It is yet another IT solution that has been overpromised and yet adopted underwhelmingly. The $3 million paid to Healthengine is a drop in the ocean in terms of the money spent on the pandemic but it’s money that could have been better used, we reckon.

Another waste of money appears to be the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre, which this week lost its third CEO in its four years of existence. We have always been suspicious about the worth, direction and leadership of this organisation, believing that the money showered on it by the federal government and universities was probably better off spent supporting existing research bodies rather than setting up new ones. It seemed from the beginning that the whole purpose was to continue to extract taxpayer funds, much as its predecessor, the CRC for Capital Markets, had done, with little or nothing to show for it.

In the last year a few worthwhile projects have got off the ground, but coming as it does half-way through the entire funding period, it seems to be a case of too little too late. The first two CEOs have gone without a trace and the latest one, who no one in digital health had ever heard of before he got the gig, looks likely to follow the same trail. We hear that the new chair of the CRC is a different kettle of fish than the last one, so we’ll see if she can resurrect what appears to be yet another black hole for taxpayer funds.

And finally, we have some good news. The Tasmanian Department of Health and its partner Oracle gave a great presentation last week to the Australasian Institute of Digital Health’s virtual summit about the roll-out of the state’s vaccine management system, which Oracle has provided for free as a public good. As we’ve reported before, the system seems to work very well, and it is now being kept on for other public health-delivered programs.

We do have to report though that while we used the Tasmanian system to book our first two vaccines, we had a bit of trouble using it to book our booster. It couldn’t find us in its system for some reason, so we turned to the Healthdirect vaccine clinic finder instead. Success. The general practice we chose had us in, jabbed, recorded and back out in a jiffy and it was all recorded immediately on the AIR and in our My Health Record.

The receptionist called us in, the GP read us our rights and did the paperwork, the nurse was heroic in her production-line coordination of swabbing, injecting, bandaiding and booting us out to sit for 15 minutes, and all went swimmingly. Thank you to all of the clinical, administrative and IT staff who have made this massive undertaking a breeze for the majority of the population over the last year or so. You are heroes.

That brings us to our poll question for the week:

Have IT solutions like cloud-based records and My Health Record helped in disaster or pandemic situations?

It’s a broad question, so feel free to vote here or leave your comments below. Last week, we asked: Is the global EMR market overvalued? The vast majority said yes – 91 per cent to nine per cent. We also asked if there were good alternatives to commercial off the shelf EMRs. This is what you said (minus comments plugging certain vendors).


0 # Kate McDonald 2022-03-18 13:19
Last week, we asked: Have IT solutions like cloud-based records and My Health Record helped in disaster or pandemic situations? Readers were split 50:50.

We also asked what practical experiences you had. Here’s what you said:

- No power and damage to the local telecommunicati ons from the microburst meant no access to the cloud for 3 days

- Katrina in New Orleans; every tornado in Kentucky

- I had to go into hospital twice (not emergencies) in the past three months. In both cases I had to fill out a long form about my medical history. I have a MyHR and it is totally useless - it has no history and nowhere to put the sort of information requested. When I got to admission, they asked me to confirm just about everything so the claim that I don't have to remember my medical history is bunkum.

- The hype about health records is absurd. A record of care when in hospital or being treated for a particular problem is essential and even then there is a long way to go with current systems. IT folk have a naive understanding of health care processes.

- None of my medical experiences (primary care and hospital stays) have made it to My Health Record, even though I have asked. Apparently it takes too much extra time! Needs to be automated once approval is given. This would require integration with multiple health systems which appears to be a task too difficult to undertake. They got 90% there and appear to have run out of money or will (or both).

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