The Australian government's much-vaunted, much-plugged COVIDSafe app came under the spotlight this week as Senate Estimates hearings got under way in Canberra and the opportunity to grill health department officials on their COVID-19 response, including their thoughts on Victoria's contact tracing capabilities, presented itself.
Labor has heavily criticised the app since its release and its seems with good reason, as it doesn't appear to work very well. The opposition overplayed their hand a tad with claims that it had only found two positive contacts at a cost of $70 million, as that figure turned out to be vastly overinflated. Department of Health assistant secretary Caroline Edwards clarified that the app had cost $5 million to develop and maintain, with a further $6.95 million to plug it.
The big news this week in digital health was the expansion of Australia's roll out of electronic prescriptions to metropolitan Sydney, following the fast-track implementation in metropolitan Melbourne and then the rest of Victoria as a weapon in that state's battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Also this week we saw some rare movement in the secure messaging arena, with a number of clinical information system vendors and secure messaging services now having successfully completed the implementation of new interoperability standards that will hopefully allow clinicians and healthcare organisations to more easily exchange clinical information electronically.
In last week's blog we took a look at a bit of a bungle over in the UK, where the use of an old version of Excel by Public Health England has been blamed for almost 16,000 positive COVID-19 cases being left off the official list for a week, potentially affecting up to 50,000 people.
The head of the National Health Service's Test and Trace program, Dido Harding, is now being asked to consider her position as the ramifications of the bungle continue. The UK is also struggling with wider aspects of Test and Trace, according to Digital Health News, which reports that just 68 per cent of close contacts of those who had tested positive were able to be reached last week.