Pulse+IT Blog

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.

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.

Forget MyHR: SMD is back

As the hoo-ha over My Health Record dies down, this week the industry turned its attention back to a problem that has dogged the Australian healthcare system for well over a decade: secure messaging interoperability, or lack thereof, and the continued reliance on paper for clinical communication between different settings.

New Zealand is well on the way to solving this problem because it primarily uses one messaging service but also because its Health Information Standards Organisation (HISO) has managed to get consensus within the industry on standards for messaging along with code sets, security and privacy. New Zealand also has the benefit of a mature National Health Index (NHI) patient identifier and its associated health practitioner index.

ADHA batting zero for two on My Health Record

For those among us who have despaired at the bungled, fumbled, laborious roll-out of the My Health Record over the last seven years, have we got news for you! The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has decided to take a look at the implementation of the system in all its gory details, and you get to have your say.

The ANAO has announced it is holding an audit to “assess the effectiveness of the Australian Digital Health Agency's implementation of the My Health Record system”. The audit will not cover the merits of government policy, it says, but it does have a role in assessing the efficient and effective implementation of government programs. You have until April 14 to have a say, with a report to be delivered in October.

Back to the paper future

In a nice bit of timing, Pulse+IT asked readers in our poll last week whether, following Greg Hunt's ill-advised comment that he could guarantee the My Health Record won't be hacked, you thought health data security could ever be guaranteed. Nope, the vast majority of you said, and just as well as more details emerged about the ransomware attack on the Melbourne Heart Group cardiology practice in January.

Another round of turf wars erupt

It has been a bit quiet on the health IT front recently but things were enlivened somewhat this week with another eruption of the ongoing turf war between doctors and pharmacists. No sooner had a brief announcement of a partnership between health insurer Bupa and the newly merged TerryWhite Chemmart been released than the AMA decided to arc up, thundering about how it threatened the very foundations of general practice.

It's doubtful that there's really much cause for concern over a vague agreement on reducing some costs for medications and supplies for Bupa health fund members, combined with a bit of encouragement to take part in in-pharmacy health screening programs pharmacies and the promise of a dinky new health app, but the AMA let fly nonetheless.

Nice set of numbers turns sour

The Australian Digital Health Agency and the Department of Health put on a brave face at Senate Estimates this week when they popped up yet again to be interrogated about the My Health Record. A couple of hours earlier ADHA had quietly released details on the number of people who had opted out of the system, and at 9.9 per cent of the eligible population, representing about 2.5 million people, it was not a figure they seemed keen on shouting from the rooftops.

Their defence of the number seems to have changed as well. Asked how the figure of 9.9 per cent opting out compared to international experience, ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey told Senate Estimates that as Australia was leading the world with a system that provides patients with control over their record, there was nothing really to compare it to.

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