The week’s headlines were again dominated by the cyber attack on Waikato DHB, which is still in the very early days of recovery from what turned out to be an extremely significant incident. Officials confirmed that patient and staff data that was sent to the media earlier this week was genuine and had been stolen, but a deadline the alleged perpetrators gave for the payment of a ransom came and went with no public release of the documents.
It was not a great week for cyber security in healthcare around the world as malicious actors let loose, taking out Waikato DHB’s IT systems on Tuesday and having a go at the Alaskan Department of Health later in the week. Those incidents follow the massive attack on Ireland’s healthcare service last week, which was described by its CEO as catastrophic and affected the whole country. It is still recovering, but so is the Scripps Health network in San Diego, which continues to struggle two weeks later.
Early reports linked the perpetrators of the Irish attack to Waikato but that has since been disputed by the Ministry of Health, and it is still not clear who or what is responsible. One unexpected consequence has been disruption to the DHB’s payroll system – not only are clinicians having to revert to pen and paper, but the beancounters are too. The Victorian health system, which has had its fair share of cyber issues in the last few years, got a bit of cash in Thursday’s state budget to fix some of its cyber gaps, including money for next generation anti-virus protections, a Security Operations Centre, and a recovery service in the event of a successful attack.
There was a lot of spin in Tuesday’s federal budget about what it means for digital health, but there was quite a lot of money too. The spin was about how the government was transforming digital health with its investment. The money was about half a billion dollars.
There was the previously announced $300m over two years for the My Health Record, which will be used for “leveraging the connections already in place and ensuring a more coordinated healthcare future for Australia”, whatever that means, “while also stimulating economic recovery from COVID-19” and “accelerating a new surge of innovations”.
Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae didn’t hold back this week in a letter he penned to New Zealand’s Auditor-General John Ryan, asking Mr Ryan if his beancounters could take a close look at the procurement of the new Salesforce-based solution being rolled out to support the COVID-19 vaccination program.
Calling the reported expenditure of $38 million for the system scandalous, Mr McCrae took the NZ Ministry of Health (MoH) to task over what looks like a behind-closed-doors approach to the procurement as well as its expense, claiming he and his team could have had a system up and running in a month for 50 grand and a bit of spare change.
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.
Fred IT made the news this week with the launch of Australia’s first active script list (ASL), which Fred has dubbed My Script List (MySL). The system has been tested in Tasmania over the last few months and is now live for Tassie pharmacies using Fred’s dispense systems.
The other states and territories are due to follow in the next couple of months, although the system is not yet fully up and running for GPs as the practice management software vendors, who are constantly under the pump with requests for new features and functionality, still have a bit of work to do.
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).
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