Pulse+IT Blog

Happy democracy sausage day

Half of Australia will probably be at their polling stations chomping on a democracy sausage and voting early and often when this missive lands in your inbox, but amid all the excitement and the scent of a sausage sizzle, there's still time for our round-up of the week that was in digital health.

Earlier in the week, we had a chat with emergency department specialist Naren Gunja, who also happens to the chief medical information officer for the Western Sydney Local Health District, home to Westmead, Blacktown, Mt Druitt, Auburn and Cumberland hospitals.

MyHR: now for something completely different

Most of Pulse+IT's readers don't need to be reminded that the My Health Record has come in for some pretty harsh criticism over the last seven years, quite a bit of it emanating from us. In that time there has been a lot to criticise but it's also fair to say there are loads of true believers out there who have held firm, hoping even in the chilliest times that the system would heat up and get some things sorted.

Over those seven years there has been the odd good news story about the system in action rather than theory, some coming from actual users rather than spruikers. Patient advocate Harry Iles-Mann makes a compelling case for using the system, and there are several reports of clinicians finding something useful on the various medicines documents, for example. The Australian Journal of Pharmacy had a little story on how the MyHR proved worthy during the Townsville floods earlier this year. We'd argue that after seven years you'd bloody well hope so but nonetheless, there are good news stories filtering through.

A marriage of two minds

This week's big, although not unexpected, news was the announcement that HISA and ACHI were thinking of getting together for a bit of formal cooperation. The move has been rumoured for some years, and it makes a lot of sense. For such a small industry there are quite a few different professional organisations if you include HIMAA and wider groups like AIIA as well.

ACHI has always considered itself the peak as an academic college but it has suffered in the past from a lack of administrative support, relying as it does almost entirely on volunteers. HISA on the other hand has an extremely good organisational structure and has proved itself adept at managing the various conferences and local networking events it runs.

Return of the JeHDI

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians was in the news this week with the release of its pre-election statement outlining what it thought should be on the policy agenda for the incoming government. There were some quite excellent suggestions in the document about preventative health and financial levers for improving chronic disease management and the obesity crisis, as well as a few long shots that have no chance of getting up.

Ideas like a tax on sugary drinks and volumetric taxation for alcohol are extremely unpalatable to the two major parties and would incite enormous rounds of pearl clutching from the anti-nanny state types, the very people who were responsible for encouraging the abolition of the Australian National Preventative Health Agency in 2014, which the RACP now wants re-established.

Is everything above board at the agency?

In what was a highly charged week in Australian politics featuring the final sitting of the 45th Parliament and big numbers being boasted in budget speeches, the appointment of a few new faces to the board of the Australian Digital Health Agency flew very much under the radar.

The announcement doesn't seem to have made any waves anywhere else apart from Pulse+IT, where we reported it the day before the official announcement was released, having been told by a very officious type at the Department of Health's media unit to mind our own business when we inquired about it earlier in the week. That of course just confirmed what we suspected.

Microsoft schedules HealthVault's funeral

It didn't come as much of a surprise so soon after the news broke that Microsoft was dropping support for its Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health Dashboard apps that it was also canning its HealthVault personal health record. While HealthVault was a pretty good product, it really never got the uptake outside of the worried well and corporate wellness markets that it needed to survive.

There are still plenty of PHRs and similar sorts of apps on the market and Microsoft itself is recommending customers have a look around for alternatives. One is Get Real Health, which is offering to let HealthVault users migrate their data over to its Lydia platform and keep the same credentials. For those who have long memories, when Google pulled the plug on its Google Health product it told users to shop around, with one recommendation being HealthVault.

No silver bullet for secure messaging

As we alluded to last week, the Australian Digital Health Agency has come back to the table this week with a bit of cash for clinical software vendors that weren't involved in the two secure messaging proof-of-concept trials it sponsored in Victoria to update their systems to incorporate new standards for interoperability.

While the money on offer was the headline, no one is under any illusion that this is the end of the road for what has been an intractable problem for well over a decade. In fact, pretty much everyone agrees it's just the start. Pulse+IT has written numerous screeds about the many challenges – technical, financial, cultural and practical – that face the healthcare industry in achieving a secure system of electronic communication so we won't repeat them again, but we will point you to an opinion piece we published yesterday by by Peter MacIsaac, who does a great job outlining some of the many challenges that remain, particularly around aspects such as message content and vocabulary adoption.

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