Pulse+IT Blog

Health IT still very much a WIP

The IT solutions behind Australia’s and New Zealand’s COVID-19 responses have come in for some questioning over the 18 months of the pandemic, and no one seems to agree on whether they have proven to be effective or not, whether it be mobile phone proximity apps like Australia’s COVIDsafe (general consensus: dud) or QR code check-in systems (thumbs up).

They all do appear to be quite expensive though, which is nothing new, and as always when there are copious amounts of public money on offer, hands immediately reach out. This has never been more true than in the roll-out of online booking, inventory management, and vaccination registration systems on a jurisdictional and national scale.

Shock! Practical solutions offered for long-term problems

Much has been said over the last 18 months about how the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a revolution in digital health adoption, but there’s a chance these predictions might turn out to be a bit overhyped, particularly when it comes to telehealth (or telephone health as it probably should be named for now).

What has become more obvious as the pandemic has drawn out is the benefit of automation when it comes to health service efficiency, especially in under-the-radar areas like practice management system interoperability, which may well trigger longer term benefits than the tech du jour.

A RIVeR runs through it

Problems appear to be continuing to beset Far North Queensland’s Regional eHealth Project (ReHP), a long-winded drama first touted in 2012 which has officially come to an end at a cost of $34.5 million (at least according to the state’s very useful Digital Projects Dashboard).

Funding was originally obtained in 2012 from a federal government hospital investment grant, although the project itself only really kicked off in 2015, with the aim of building a primary and community care-focused eHealth solution for about 58 clinics and small hospitals in the Cairns, Cape York and Torres Strait regions.

Silly sausages being touted for MedicalDirector

Pulse+IT collectively choked on its early winter porridge this week when we read an edition of the Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk column which touted the sale of general practice management system vendor MedicalDirector by its private equity owners for the astoundingly silly sum of $500 million.

As we have noted before, anyone seriously considering that sort of money for a middle-sized Australian medical software firm needs to have their heads read. The Fin was quoting $300m three years ago and we hear this is closer to what is being asked for today, but it is still a highly optimistic valuation for a company that is not really going anywhere in a hurry.

Waikato’s woes continue into another week

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.

HotDoc hot to trot for Victoria

Melbourne-based online appointment booking and patient engagement platform HotDoc went on the front foot this week in a call to the Victorian government to consider its platform for the ramped-up COVID-19 vaccination program, which is now being extended to 40-49 year olds. It is even offering its solution to the Victorian government for free and reckons it can stand something up in 48 hours to help Victorians get vaccinated.

That’s a far cry from Microsoft’s efforts, which despite being awarded a $5 million contract for a vaccine management solution for Victoria last year still hasn’t yet gone live. This platform is more than just a booking solution but you’d have to say come on, Microsoft. It’s June already. We know that alternatives have been put into action in the meantime – Cerner, for instance, has been offering its solution to health service customers in Victoria for Phase 1a – but it beggars belief that Microsoft has been unable to get its solution sorted in the meantime.

Sympathy following massive attacks

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.

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