Pulse+IT Blog

Vax campaign not going by the book

The big news this week was the Australian Department of Health’s call for expressions of interest from general practices to take part in phase 1b of the Covid vaccination program, which is due to begin in March. As the EOI has been digested over the week, some serious questions are being asked about the plan, which doesn’t appear to be fully fleshed out.

Putting aside whether it will be financially viable for any but the largest general practices that can guarantee a production line process to take part, questions remain about how to schedule patients for the different phases of the roll-out, the ability to adequately staff the clinics, and the site requirements that the department is specifying. We are now seeing pushback from GPs about the MBS funding model and concerns over patients that won’t be able to get their vaccine from their regular practice.

Is ADHA a lame duck?

The big news in Australian digital health this week was the appointment of former Mater Health CIO and Queensland Health chief health information officer Mal Thatcher as the Australian Digital Health Agency’s new chief technology officer. The job calls for both strategic and operational leadership of the agency’s infrastructure operations division at a critical time as it looks to modernise the national infrastructure and replatform the My Health Record, starting with its API gateway.

Dr Thatcher is an excellent choice, having had a career in both strategy and operational IT, and he is very well respected and liked in the industry. He knows his stuff so we wish him well as a new executive team is built to replace the initial one put together by Richard Royle and Tim Kelsey. All of that team has now departed, with new CEO Amanda Cattermole given space to select her own.

Telehealth takes flight in 2020

There's nothing that Health Minister Greg Hunt likes more than a good slogan that he can put to good use, over and over again, and he's latched onto a new one and is making the most of it. In the last few years it has been all about the government's 'rock solid commitment to Medicare'. This year, it's about the government's response to the pandemic and how it 'brought forward a 10-year plan on telehealth within 10 days'.

That there was a 10-year plan on telehealth, or any plan at all for that matter, is news to us, but Greg has grabbed hold of this saying and he's not letting go. That said, 2020 has most definitely seen a coming of age for telehealth and the government is to be congratulated on finally coming to the party and funding it properly through the MBS. In the next few years, telehealth should become embedded in normal clinical workflow and patients and the heath system will be all the better for it.

Upping the ante with virtual care

We have been a little late to the party reporting on eHealth NSW and the state's Agency for Clinical Innovation's establishment of a virtual care accelerator to co-ordinate the deluge of new technologies and models of care arising from the coronavirus pandemic, but it appears to be going great guns. eHealth NSW has had a whole host of projects on the go this year, backed up by enormous amounts of cash that other health services can only dream of.

The fax fights back

In welcome news today, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the temporary MBS item numbers for telehealth introduced in March have now been made permanent. Telehealth has been hugely popular, and even better news is that neither Mr Hunt nor the Department of Health has been silly enough to take it away once the floodgates were opened. Hopefully further changes will be made in future to remove the requirement that the patient must have seen the GP in the previous 12 months to be eligible for MBS funded telehealth, which we have argued in the past is a backward step.

In a similarly retrograde step, New Zealand's Ministry of Health has dropped its directive that healthcare organisations ditch the use of analogue faxes by next month. It appears that the telecommunications providers are still supporting faxes for the time being, and from what New Zealand Doctor is reporting, those still using them for healthcare purposes weren't paying much attention to the ministry's directive anyway. The fax lives to fight another day.

Medtech's FHIR engine a game-changer

It has been a pretty big year for New Zealand's market leading practice management system vendor Medtech Global, which was bought by a private equity firm from long-time owner Vino Ramayah in June in a deal engineered by new CEO Geoff Sayer.

Dr Sayer quickly set about putting his mark on the company, which also has a small share of the Australian market with its Medtech32 and Medtech Evolution products. Medtech has been the stalwart in NZ general practice for two decades but has been challenged recently by Indici, the cloud-based system developed for healthcare home practices and recommended by a number of PHOs.

Continued growth in EMR adoption

It turns out to be nice timing that we ran a poll of readers last week asking if you thought electronic medical records were now an essential technology for acute care services. The vast majority of you did – 91 per cent said yes, just nine per cent saying no – and this week we heard public hospitals are following suit, with about 65 per cent of Australian public hospitals now using one.

Digital health consultancy The Checkley Group's managing director Bruce Pedersen gave one of his now regular round-ups of the state of EMR adoption in Australia at the Sydney leg of the Australasian Institute of Digital Health's mammoth virtual summit this week. Mr Pedersen likes to keep track of who is using what and he noted that Victoria had seen the largest growth in the last two years, boosted by the Epic implementation at the Parkville precinct in Melbourne no doubt.

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