Pulse+IT Blog

Upping the ante with virtual care

We have been a little late to the party reporting on eHealth NSW and the state's Agency for Clinical Innovation's establishment of a virtual care accelerator to co-ordinate the deluge of new technologies and models of care arising from the coronavirus pandemic, but it appears to be going great guns. eHealth NSW has had a whole host of projects on the go this year, backed up by enormous amounts of cash that other health services can only dream of.

Medtech's FHIR engine a game-changer

It has been a pretty big year for New Zealand's market leading practice management system vendor Medtech Global, which was bought by a private equity firm from long-time owner Vino Ramayah in June in a deal engineered by new CEO Geoff Sayer.

Dr Sayer quickly set about putting his mark on the company, which also has a small share of the Australian market with its Medtech32 and Medtech Evolution products. Medtech has been the stalwart in NZ general practice for two decades but has been challenged recently by Indici, the cloud-based system developed for healthcare home practices and recommended by a number of PHOs.

The fax fights back

In welcome news today, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the temporary MBS item numbers for telehealth introduced in March have now been made permanent. Telehealth has been hugely popular, and even better news is that neither Mr Hunt nor the Department of Health has been silly enough to take it away once the floodgates were opened. Hopefully further changes will be made in future to remove the requirement that the patient must have seen the GP in the previous 12 months to be eligible for MBS funded telehealth, which we have argued in the past is a backward step.

In a similarly retrograde step, New Zealand's Ministry of Health has dropped its directive that healthcare organisations ditch the use of analogue faxes by next month. It appears that the telecommunications providers are still supporting faxes for the time being, and from what New Zealand Doctor is reporting, those still using them for healthcare purposes weren't paying much attention to the ministry's directive anyway. The fax lives to fight another day.

Continued growth in EMR adoption

It turns out to be nice timing that we ran a poll of readers last week asking if you thought electronic medical records were now an essential technology for acute care services. The vast majority of you did – 91 per cent said yes, just nine per cent saying no – and this week we heard public hospitals are following suit, with about 65 per cent of Australian public hospitals now using one.

Digital health consultancy The Checkley Group's managing director Bruce Pedersen gave one of his now regular round-ups of the state of EMR adoption in Australia at the Sydney leg of the Australasian Institute of Digital Health's mammoth virtual summit this week. Mr Pedersen likes to keep track of who is using what and he noted that Victoria had seen the largest growth in the last two years, boosted by the Epic implementation at the Parkville precinct in Melbourne no doubt.

Test and trace troubles

In a week in which the US hit a milestone and recorded over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, there was far more positive news in these parts as Victoria recorded a full week with no new cases, in a very welcome sign that it has successfully cracked the second wave.

There will still be questions asked about the capacity of its test and trace regime, with the Victorian parliament's legal and social issues committee, chaired by cross-bench MP Fiona Patten, running an inquiry beginning on November 16.

EMRs get the green light

There was some big news in electronic medical records this week, with the South Australian government giving the green light to the roll-out of Allscripts' Sunrise EMR and patient administration system in additional metro hospitals. SA Health has had a troubled history with what was formerly known as EPAS, having launched a highly ambitious program to roll the combined EMR/PAS out to all of its hospitals over a decade ago before becoming bogged down in implementation troubles.

Having gone live in a handful of hospitals, the project was halted in 2018 and an independent panel took a close look at its future before a decision was made to separate the EMR from the PAS and try a different implementation model at Mt Gambier and Royal Adelaide.

Keep plugging that app

The Australian government's much-vaunted, much-plugged COVIDSafe app came under the spotlight this week as Senate Estimates hearings got under way in Canberra and the opportunity to grill health department officials on their COVID-19 response, including their thoughts on Victoria's contact tracing capabilities, presented itself.

Labor has heavily criticised the app since its release and its seems with good reason, as it doesn't appear to work very well. The opposition overplayed their hand a tad with claims that it had only found two positive contacts at a cost of $70 million, as that figure turned out to be vastly overinflated. Department of Health assistant secretary Caroline Edwards clarified that the app had cost $5 million to develop and maintain, with a further $6.95 million to plug it.

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