Pulse+IT Blog

Amazon takes aim at healthcare costs

Coming hot on the heels of Apple's announcement last week that it is seriously getting into the healthcare game came another healthcare announcement from a US tech giant this week in the form of Amazon, although what the proposal actually entails is still a bit fuzzy.

The online retailer and cloud provider has got together with Warren Buffet's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway and financial services firm JPMorgan Chase to explore how to provide healthcare to their tens of thousands of US employees. Speculation initially centred on whether the trio was going to try to take on America's notorious health insurers, but it looks much more likely now that the main game is to explore how technology can cut the cost of healthcare provision.

Opinion: Reflections of a general practitioner on carbon versus silicon-based IT

I may be one of the last of a disappearing generation of working GPs. I graduated in 1970, having taught myself to touch type in my sixth year of medical school (which may have been the most useful thing I learned that year.)

I observed the growth of medical computing from that perspective: typed letters, dictated hospital admission notes, the birth of the personal computer, the use of computers to write scripts, then with increasing sophistication to take over clinical recording.

Apple ups the ante with Health Records app

Another day and another tech firm announces they're set to revolutionise healthcare with their dinky new app, promising to bring untold insights from your personal health records to the palm of your hand and enable information sharing on an unimaginable scale. We hear this boast often enough and cast a thoroughly sceptical eye over every one, but when the app comes from Apple, we do admit to taking a little more notice than usual.

Gossip has abounded about Apple's interest in entering the personal health record market for some years and they've already got some runs on the board with their ResearchKit and HealthKit technology and the existing Health app. But while they've been hiring quite a few people with health technology experience over the last few years, speculation about Apple's likelihood of success in PHRs has always been tempered by the example of Google, which tried and failed with Google Health, and Microsoft, which still markets its HealthVault solution but which just this month closed down HealthVault Insights, an app that used machine learning to analyse health data.

The trouble with shared care planning

Welcome back to a new year of the weekend edition of Pulse+IT, in which we cast our glance over the events of the week and pontificate for your reading pleasure on what we think it all means for the eHealth and health IT sector. It looks set to be a make or break year for the My Health Record as it goes opt-out at some yet-to-be-decided date towards the end of the year and 20 million people are suddenly presented with a storage receptacle for their health information.

It might be a make or break year for the Health Care Homes project as well, already off to a rocky start with delays and bickering over bundled payments. There was also a bit of a kerfuffle at the end of last year over what shared care planning software the participating practices could choose from and the accuracy of the product information about them.

Team care arrangement have been promoted as the way forward for the primary care sector but actually getting GPs and other members of the care team such as specialists and allied health to use these tools has always been a tough gig. Precedence Healthcare was one of the pioneers of shared care plans in primary care through its cdmNet product, although there are a number of others out there, but even Precedence has found the going tough and shifted its focus once it was acquired by Sonic Clinical Services. It's a struggle for all of these companies, fighting it out for a small market share.

Season's bleatings

It wasn't a good look for online news outlet The Conversation this week when it was forced to retract an article by Deakin University academics Danuta Mendelson and Gabrielle Wolf about the My Health Record. The article was taken down in a flash once several egregious errors were pointed out but is still available online if you search hard enough.

It wasn't a good look for the authors either. It seems they misread the recent legislative rule enabling the opt-out model for the My Health Record to be applied next year and thought it started a fortnight ago. They also seemed to think health practitioners can search for patients' records just with their Medicare number. We suggest that the Australian Digital Health Agency and the Department of Health put their heads together to see how these misunderstandings can be avoided in future.

Opinion: Reflections of a health consumer with greater expectations

I am 52 years old and a little on the portly side due to an aversion to strenuous exercise and a (in)famous inability to walk past a nice dumpling, pizza, burrito, stir fry or glass of red wine. I have gout, which I am told is genetic, but then again I haven’t met too many skinny, teetotal gout sufferers over my time.

I am starting to feel the first signs of arthritis in my wrist, knees and ankles and I have collected the odd more exotic disease along the way, in my case Gilbert’s Syndrome. I am not sure who the original Gilbert was but it is quite nice to know we at least have something in common.

L for licence to operate

Health Minister Greg Hunt had the conspiracy theorists in a bit of a tizz last week when he lodged a little piece of paper authorising that the opt-out model for the My Health Record begin some time next year. Everyone thought he'd already done this but it turns out it is a three-step process, with the actual date for the three-month opt-out period yet to be announced but most likely to begin in mid-2018.

That didn't stop the tinfoil hatters, though, who insisted that the three months actually began on the date he lodged the rule, namely last Thursday, and that the government was tricking us all into getting a MyHR without our knowledge. The horrors that lie within the MyHR are such that only by conning us will the government get anyone on board, they reckon.

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