Pulse+IT Blog

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.

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).

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.

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.

Clown show about to go off over booking system

This week we saw state and federal politicians dropping like flies, including Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who did his back in, and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who had a run in with cellulitis and ended up on an IV drip. It led to some unfortunate headlines such as the one that (warning: profanity) breakfast TV show Sunrise ran on Wednesday and also led Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take over as acting health minister, which is also turning out to be a bit unfortunate.

Mr Morrison may be able to sell some dodgy half-price plane fares as just the ticket to get the tourism industry back on its feet, but he was on much shakier ground today when he insisted to reporters that the government had not, in fact, promised that all Australians would be vaccinated by October.

Please form an orderly queue

General practice telephone lines took a pounding this week as the federal government’s vaccination booking system roll-out took yet another turn for the worse. No one was expecting the eligibility checker and vaccine clinic finder site to go live on Wednesday morning but live it went, and while the platform is technically fine, its appointment availability limitations were immediately obvious to anyone trying to use it to actually make a booking.

The Department of Health is insisting that it emailed the 1000 or so listed practices on Tuesday to tell them it was going live the next day, and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is sticking to his guns with his belief that only practices who had “applied, been approved, and submitted an order themselves” were listed.

From neglect to care, dignity and respect

It did not go unnoticed that the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released this week was titled Care, Dignity and Respect, a far more aspirational name than that which starkly laid out the findings of the commission’s interim report in October 2019: Neglect. That being said, if there was one sentence that summed up the findings of the final report and the national shame the royal commission has uncovered, it was this one: “Substandard care and abuse pervades the Australian aged care system.”

The 148 recommendations in the final report cover the gamut of issues facing the sector, from how to regulate it to how to fund it and how to ensure its vast workforce is equipped to adequately provide the care that appears to be so lacking. The final report also placed a good deal of emphasis on information, data and technology, which also appear to be sorely lacking.

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