Pulse+IT Blog

HealthEngine's $2.9m worth of sorrow

The long-running saga of HealthEngine and several instances of its naughty behaviour finally came to an end this week with a spanking $2.9 million fine handed down courtesy of the Federal Court of Australia. In action instigated by the ACCC last year following an ABC investigation, HealthEngine acknowledged it shared users' personal information with insurance brokers without adequately disclosing this to the users, and picked up a tidy $1.8m over four years for doing so.

Aged care at the epicentre of epidemic

We had our fingers crossed this week that things would go well at the Parkville precinct in Melbourne, where three hospitals went live with a new electronic medical record on Saturday morning, and it appears that things have gone smoothly. We have not heard a peep or a grumble about the implementation so far, apart from questioning the wisdom of going live during a global pandemic in a city experiencing a second wave of infections in the first place.

The Royal Children's Hospital implementation, which has been adopted by its neighbours, seems to have been the right one and if there were major problems this week, everyone would have heard. Parkville's big bang during COVID-19 will make a fascinating case study one day.

Misfortune or carelessness: the year 2020

Along with “novel coronavirus”, “social distancing” and “hydroxychloroquine”, “contact tracing apps” will go down as one of the most notable additions to the pandemic lexicon. They have certainly proved controversial as privacy concerns run headlong into public health necessities, and few if any have proved overly useful.

New Zealand's COVID Tracer app hasn't been hugely successful so far with fewer than 600,000 downloads, but thankfully it hasn't really needed to be. However, with one eye on the second wave plaguing Victoria, the NZ government has announced it is going to trial a new wearable Bluetooth alternative called CovidCard that has been strongly promoted by business groups and some academics.

Epic leap for ACT Health

Pulse+IT's top story for this week was the announcement that the ACT had chosen Epic's EMR for the territory's ambitious digital health program. This came as little surprise as the health service had used the term “big bang implementation” at a vendor briefing not long after the release of the tender last year.

The most successful big bang in Australian healthcare – the only one, come to think of it – has been at the Royal Children's Hospital, which went live with Epic in 2016. RCH's neighbours in the Parkville precinct will be girding their loins next weekend for their big bang, with Epic set to go live at Royal Melbourne, Royal Women's and Peter Mac on Saturday, August 8.

Barriers to telehealth in danger of being rebuilt

Just as a long-awaited breakthrough occurred when the Australian Department of Health opened up the Medical Benefits Schedule to telehealth item numbers to help GPs deal with the coronavirus pandemic in March, that breakthrough may very well be in danger of being severely curtailed with new restrictions being placed on telehealth provision.

Under pressure from the doctors' lobby groups, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on July 10 that restrictions would be placed on who can receive MBS-funded telehealth consults from July 20, limiting them to patients who have an existing relationship with a GP or practice and have been seen face to face in the last 12 months. Children and people at risk of homelessness remain covered.

Telehealth restrictions a retrograde step

Debate over telehealth continued this week as the new restrictions ordered by the Department of Health came into force in a hurry. Some online appointment booking services are now asking patients trying to book a telehealth conference if they have seen a GP at that practice in the previous 12 months, with one reader telling us she had tried to book a telehealth conference to get a new referral but was knocked back because she hadn't presented there in person in over a year.

We had a lot of debate on the topic on our blog from last week, with numerous examples given of different cohorts of patients, especially vulnerable groups, who will now be prevented from accessing MBS-funded telehealth services just when they were finally given access to them. In an article in this week's MJA Insight, Elwood Family Practice GP Andrew Baird detailed a number of cases where vulnerable patients will be disadvantaged by the new rules and provides a great deal of food for thought.

COVID second wave threatens to swamp Melbourne Health's big bang

There's probably any number of excuses that people make to get out of training for new workplace IT systems, but “EMR training gave me the plague” is certainly a novel one. Something similar to that claim was made in a story in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers this week, in which an unnamed doctor said Royal Melbourne Hospital was “putting staff in danger in order to satisfy their own timeline” for the roll-out of the new Epic EMR, which is due to go live next month.

Royal Melbourne, the Royal Women's and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre are all rolling out Epic in a big bang implementation as part of the $124 million Parkville Precinct project, which is using Royal Children's Hospital's 2016 implementation as a template. The Epic emergency department module is live at RMH and planning and training for a May go-live for the full system in the other facilities was well underway when the pandemic struck.

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