Pulse+IT Blog

Health not buying MSIA’s eScript complaints

A rather peculiar tender was issued by the Australian Department of Health back in September 2021 for a review of the electronic prescribing ecosystem, with particular emphasis on the funding model. The tender was full of the usual government verbiage, talking about the need to look at “opportunities to improve the customer experience for prescribers, patients and dispensers; optimise the environment to support further scale; and to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the operating and funding model”. In other words, it wanted to look at cutting costs.

We hear that one of the usual suspects in the big four consulting groups won the contract to take at look at this ecosystem, saw that the department was not only funding every eScript token that a GP sent out by SMS but that it had in fact been paying for every printed script issued with a barcode for close on a decade, and decided to recommend cutting back on these subsidies.

This election, no one is mentioning the M word

Pulse+IT’s readers prefer us to stay out of politics and refrain from commenting one way or the other and we generally try to do so, but with a federal election just three weeks away and the topic of healthcare barely touched on by our leaders, it’s getting tough.

Barely a peep has come out from the Coalition about healthcare policy beyond the usual spin about record funding, guaranteeing Medicare, free medications, ‘permanent telehealth’ and so on. With health minister Greg Hunt retiring and a non-entity like former social services minister Anne Ruston to take his place, and aged care minister Richard Colbeck currently on holiday either in Coventry or perhaps even Siberia so quiet he has been, healthcare policy and funding is not getting much of a run.

Pfizer’s play for ResApp a sign of the times

ASX-listed ResApp Health has been making some pretty big moves and pretty big claims in the last year or so for its respiratory health software apps, so it was no real surprise that a Big Pharma company has been sniffing around. What is a bit surprising in Pfizer’s bid for the Brisbane firm is the size of its offer, which values the company at $100 million.

ResApp has been around for quite a few years, having been founded in 2014 to commercialise technology developed by University of Queensland biomedical engineer Udantha Abeyratne. It officially listed on the ASX in 2015 through a reverse listing with the former Narhex Life Sciences, and since then has run some pretty impressive trials, in particular at Joondalup Health Campus in WA, into using the technology for remote diagnosis of COPD, asthma and pneumonia through artificial intelligence analysis of cough sounds. It also has a sleep apnoea app called SleepCheck that is going great guns.

10-year primary care plan puts a lie to universal telehealth claims

Yes, we know we have been banging on about this for ages but this week has revealed in living colour just how ridiculous outgoing health minister Greg Hunt’s commitment to telehealth is. Despite masses of spin to the contrary, the Australian government has no intention of instituting universal permanent telehealth, and nor has it gone to Herculean efforts to institute it, as the Medical Software Industry Association ridiculously likes to tout.

The surreptitious release of the grandly titled Primary Health Care 10-year Plan – allegedly published on March 25, four days before the budget but somehow evading everyone’s notice – suggests that there are quite a lot of elements to the plan that the Department of Health wants to hide.

COVID-19 the acme of ‘there’s an app for that’

This week started off with the interesting news that private health insurer Medibank had invested $10 million in telehealth start-up Medinet. Telehealth start-ups are of course a dime a dozen, promising to revolutionise this and disrupt that, but that’s been the case for the last 10 years or so for those in the business.

We’ve been reporting on telehealth for 15 years and remember the big uptake beginning in 2010-2012, along with health insurer interest in telehealth platforms. For instance, HCF took an early stake in long-standing platform GP2U, which recently sold to UK-based telehealth provider Doctor Care Anywhere for $11m.

BAU budget sets the scene for an aged and health care election

Cost of living pressures may be the name of the game in this year’s Australian federal election, but aged care and healthcare will surely play a big role. The Coalition government has been touting its healthcare cred in the lead up to this year’s budget, citing the billions spent on the COVID response as evidence of healthcare spending, along with the vast sums it can conjure for newly subsidised medicines on the PBS.

It is also touting yet again its “rock-solid commitment to Medicare”, otherwise known as the Medicare guarantee, which outgoing health minister Greg Hunt has used for years as a slogan to push back against Labor accusations of inadequate funding for healthcare and other assorted Mediscares.

Hills gives it another go at health

It came as a bit of a surprise this week to see that Hills Ltd, formerly of hoist fame and for some time now a player in nurse call, patient infotainment and security IT solutions, had taken a majority share in Extensia, the small Brisbane firm that developed the RecordPoint shared care record. We haven’t heard from Extensia in years and thought they’d gone out of business, but up they popped in an industry survey on Tuesday as a case study for medical software’s value during the COVID pandemic in Australia.

Hills actually took the stake back in November 2021 but is only promoting it publicly now, new Hills CEO David Clarke tells us. The move is part of a renewed focus on the health sector for Hills, which is planning to divest itself of the security IT business, its most profitable asset. Hills has some quality contracts for its patient infotainment, hospital TV and nurse call systems in both hospitals and aged care, as well as a distribution agreement with US firm GetWell for its patient engagement products, but clinical software is a new venture for the company. The company has also cleared two long-standing, multi-million dollar legal actions against it, one dismissed by the Federal Court and the other resolved to everyone’s mutual relief.

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