Pulse+IT Blog

Big spending and big spinning budget for digital health

There was a lot of spin in Tuesday’s federal budget about what it means for digital health, but there was quite a lot of money too. The spin was about how the government was transforming digital health with its investment. The money was about half a billion dollars.

There was the previously announced $300m over two years for the My Health Record, which will be used for “leveraging the connections already in place and ensuring a more coordinated healthcare future for Australia”, whatever that means, “while also stimulating economic recovery from COVID-19” and “accelerating a new surge of innovations”.

Couple of bingles over bungles

Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae didn’t hold back this week in a letter he penned to New Zealand’s Auditor-General John Ryan, asking Mr Ryan if his beancounters could take a close look at the procurement of the new Salesforce-based solution being rolled out to support the COVID-19 vaccination program.

Calling the reported expenditure of $38 million for the system scandalous, Mr McCrae took the NZ Ministry of Health (MoH) to task over what looks like a behind-closed-doors approach to the procurement as well as its expense, claiming he and his team could have had a system up and running in a month for 50 grand and a bit of spare change.

WhatsApp with eScripts

Fred IT made the news this week with the launch of Australia’s first active script list (ASL), which Fred has dubbed My Script List (MySL). The system has been tested in Tasmania over the last few months and is now live for Tassie pharmacies using Fred’s dispense systems.

The other states and territories are due to follow in the next couple of months, although the system is not yet fully up and running for GPs as the practice management software vendors, who are constantly under the pump with requests for new features and functionality, still have a bit of work to do.

Little’s promise for technology in healthcare

Sweeping changes are afoot in the New Zealand healthcare sector, with the government this week announcing its response to last year’s Health and Disability System Review report. Gone will be the 20 district health boards to be replaced by a national health service called Health NZ that promises to do what has never been done before – work for patients, for the health workforce, and the wider community.

Using technology to deliver better access and better outcomes is high on the agenda, and Health Minister Andrew Little seems keen to emphasise how digital tools can help achieve long wished for goals like bringing services closer to people’s homes and communities, reducing duplication and improving IT procurement practices, and ensuring patients don’t have to share the same information time and time again.

ACT boldly going with Beaker

Pulse+IT had a very interesting chat to ACT Health CIO Peter O’Halloran last week, who told us all about the quite remarkable feat his team achieved, along with electronic medical record vendor Epic and cloud hosting provider NTT, in getting a full version of the Epic EMR up and hosted to help out with the territory’s Phase 1a vaccination services.

ACT Health awarded a tender to Epic last year as part of its $151 million digital health record project, which will go live in a big bang implementation in September next year. We knew that Epic’s patient administration system would be used to replace the ACTPAS one, but Mr O’Halloran also revealed that a decision had been made to not proceed with the procurement of a new laboratory information system using a different supplier, instead plumping for Epic’s Beaker LIS.

IT support for vaccinations rolls out

We are still not sure how Australia’s vaccine roll-out can be both on a war footing while at the same time definitely not a race, but things are moving along both in Australia and New Zealand in the early stages of each country’s mass vaccination plans.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health’s deputy director-general for digital and data Shayne Hunter announced yesterday that MOH will release a national booking system for its roll-out at the end of next month. We’ve been critical in the past of Australia’s tardy pace in developing a booking solution and the same can be levelled at the Kiwis, although they say they are only getting their system up and running as the priority initially had been on the National Contact Tracing Solution. That was followed in swift order by the COVID-19 Immunisation Register (CIR), which is an interim system built using Salesforce to replace the legacy National Immunisation Register (NIR) and which will be further developed into the permanent National Immunisation Solution (NIS).

Soldiering on with Covax

A couple of Melbourne hospitals were in the news this week, both for good and for unfortunate reasons. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital let us know that it had gone live with Cerner’s FirstNet in its emergency department and the ambulatory module in its acute ophthalmology clinic. Eye and Ear was one of the original HealthSmart hospitals but never fully rolled out the Cerner EMR as planned, instead using its PowerChart module mainly for order entry and discharge documentation.

Like some other hospitals that have had a go-live in the age of COVID, the Eye and Ear had a bit of a delay to its original plan, but it all seems to have gone smoothly since it went live last Monday. EMR project manager Neil Harris said that while FirstNet has been implemented in many EDs in big general hospitals, the specialist nature of the Eye and Ear made it a little different.

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