Pulse+IT Blog

BAU budget sets the scene for an aged and health care election

Cost of living pressures may be the name of the game in this year’s Australian federal election, but aged care and healthcare will surely play a big role. The Coalition government has been touting its healthcare cred in the lead up to this year’s budget, citing the billions spent on the COVID response as evidence of healthcare spending, along with the vast sums it can conjure for newly subsidised medicines on the PBS.

It is also touting yet again its “rock-solid commitment to Medicare”, otherwise known as the Medicare guarantee, which outgoing health minister Greg Hunt has used for years as a slogan to push back against Labor accusations of inadequate funding for healthcare and other assorted Mediscares.

COVID-19 the acme of ‘there’s an app for that’

This week started off with the interesting news that private health insurer Medibank had invested $10 million in telehealth start-up Medinet. Telehealth start-ups are of course a dime a dozen, promising to revolutionise this and disrupt that, but that’s been the case for the last 10 years or so for those in the business.

We’ve been reporting on telehealth for 15 years and remember the big uptake beginning in 2010-2012, along with health insurer interest in telehealth platforms. For instance, HCF took an early stake in long-standing platform GP2U, which recently sold to UK-based telehealth provider Doctor Care Anywhere for $11m.

Hills gives it another go at health

It came as a bit of a surprise this week to see that Hills Ltd, formerly of hoist fame and for some time now a player in nurse call, patient infotainment and security IT solutions, had taken a majority share in Extensia, the small Brisbane firm that developed the RecordPoint shared care record. We haven’t heard from Extensia in years and thought they’d gone out of business, but up they popped in an industry survey on Tuesday as a case study for medical software’s value during the COVID pandemic in Australia.

Hills actually took the stake back in November 2021 but is only promoting it publicly now, new Hills CEO David Clarke tells us. The move is part of a renewed focus on the health sector for Hills, which is planning to divest itself of the security IT business, its most profitable asset. Hills has some quality contracts for its patient infotainment, hospital TV and nurse call systems in both hospitals and aged care, as well as a distribution agreement with US firm GetWell for its patient engagement products, but clinical software is a new venture for the company. The company has also cleared two long-standing, multi-million dollar legal actions against it, one dismissed by the Federal Court and the other resolved to everyone’s mutual relief.

Flood disaster should be where My Health Record shines

The devastation inflicted on northern NSW and Queensland during the floods over the last fortnight has been heartbreaking to watch. Having spent some time in Kyogle and the northern rivers of NSW as well as southern Queensland, Pulse+IT is finding it hard to imagine the horror that the people and animals of the region have gone through.

While tertiary health services seem to have survived quite well, the same can’t be said for the fate of many primary healthcare providers, who are after all the lifeblood of regional communities. General practices, pharmacies, community and Aboriginal health centres and allied health have had their premises and their businesses swamped and destroyed. The pictures of elderly people from residential aged care facilities still dressed in their pyjamas being rescued in dinghies and carried to safety by locals and Pacific Island seasonal workers is reassuring. The images of the total destruction of the town of Lismore is not.

Virtual is good, but we still hold a candle for face to face

Pulse+IT was out in force this week at the Digital Health Institute Summit in Melbourne, which for some of us was the first opportunity to see interstate human beings in person for at least the last two years. Unsurprisingly there was a pretty big turn-out, with double the numbers expected turning up amid familiar sights like long lines at the espresso coffee stands and non-existent lines for ye olde brewde coffee stande, understandable considering it offers warmed up sump oil and dishwashing water and not much else.

Despite a shortened agenda, the Australasian Institute of Digital Health’s program team managed to shoehorn in a great deal of pretty great content into the two days. Very little was dull (barring a speech by a regulatory agency representative, but that was to be expected), and we all learned a lot. It was all filmed as well so AIDH members can see everything online. There’s also a virtual showcase happening next week that will be streamed live.

Allscripts joins sales of the century

The big news in health IT this week was the proposed sale of EMR vendor Allscripts’ hospital assets to Harris Computer, a subsidiary of Canadian software company Constellation Software. Harris has been buying up a few interesting companies recently, including Sydney-based obstetric and maternity software developer Meridian Health Informatics.

Meridian’s software is used by NSW Health, Queensland Health and Tasmania’s Department of Health, and Harris also added in the UK’s K2 Medical Systems to the mix last year, with a view perhaps to hoovering up the hospital-based maternity market. But Allscripts is a much bigger kettle of fish, with EMRs implemented around the world and a healthy enough listing on the NASDAQ index.

Changing of the guard at Telstra Health as digital health summit gets going

All the talk this week has been about the changing of the guard at Australia’s largest health IT company, with news that NSW Health secretary Elizabeth Koff will take over from her predecessor, Mary Foley, as the next MD at Telstra Health. Professor Foley was very warmly regarded by both her peers and her staff and in addition to setting the company on the path to profitability and buying up some pretty valuable assets, she has weathered a number of political storms with aplomb.

Telstra Health recently won a large contract outside of the healthcare industry – a $200 million, five-year deal to run Australia’s 1800RESPECT national assault, domestic and family violence hotline – signalling that it is now able to leverage some of the infrastructure it put into place for huge projects like the National Cancer Screening Register. It will be interesting in the next year or so to see how it handles the MedicalDirector transition (we are still convinced it paid too much) and its plans for international expansion under its new leadership.

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