The big news this week was the Australian Department of Health’s call for expressions of interest from general practices to take part in phase 1b of the Covid vaccination program, which is due to begin in March. As the EOI has been digested over the week, some serious questions are being asked about the plan, which doesn’t appear to be fully fleshed out.
Putting aside whether it will be financially viable for any but the largest general practices that can guarantee a production line process to take part, questions remain about how to schedule patients for the different phases of the roll-out, the ability to adequately staff the clinics, and the site requirements that the department is specifying. We are now seeing pushback from GPs about the MBS funding model and concerns over patients that won’t be able to get their vaccine from their regular practice.
The big news in Australian digital health this week was the appointment of former Mater Health CIO and Queensland Health chief health information officer Mal Thatcher as the Australian Digital Health Agency’s new chief technology officer. The job calls for both strategic and operational leadership of the agency’s infrastructure operations division at a critical time as it looks to modernise the national infrastructure and replatform the My Health Record, starting with its API gateway.
Dr Thatcher is an excellent choice, having had a career in both strategy and operational IT, and he is very well respected and liked in the industry. He knows his stuff so we wish him well as a new executive team is built to replace the initial one put together by Richard Royle and Tim Kelsey. All of that team has now departed, with new CEO Amanda Cattermole given space to select her own.
There's nothing that Health Minister Greg Hunt likes more than a good slogan that he can put to good use, over and over again, and he's latched onto a new one and is making the most of it. In the last few years it has been all about the government's 'rock solid commitment to Medicare'. This year, it's about the government's response to the pandemic and how it 'brought forward a 10-year plan on telehealth within 10 days'.
That there was a 10-year plan on telehealth, or any plan at all for that matter, is news to us, but Greg has grabbed hold of this saying and he's not letting go. That said, 2020 has most definitely seen a coming of age for telehealth and the government is to be congratulated on finally coming to the party and funding it properly through the MBS. In the next few years, telehealth should become embedded in normal clinical workflow and patients and the heath system will be all the better for it.