Pulse+IT Blog

Opinion: Reflections of a health consumer with greater expectations

I am 52 years old and a little on the portly side due to an aversion to strenuous exercise and a (in)famous inability to walk past a nice dumpling, pizza, burrito, stir fry or glass of red wine. I have gout, which I am told is genetic, but then again I haven’t met too many skinny, teetotal gout sufferers over my time.

I am starting to feel the first signs of arthritis in my wrist, knees and ankles and I have collected the odd more exotic disease along the way, in my case Gilbert’s Syndrome. I am not sure who the original Gilbert was but it is quite nice to know we at least have something in common.

Season's bleatings

It wasn't a good look for online news outlet The Conversation this week when it was forced to retract an article by Deakin University academics Danuta Mendelson and Gabrielle Wolf about the My Health Record. The article was taken down in a flash once several egregious errors were pointed out but is still available online if you search hard enough.

It wasn't a good look for the authors either. It seems they misread the recent legislative rule enabling the opt-out model for the My Health Record to be applied next year and thought it started a fortnight ago. They also seemed to think health practitioners can search for patients' records just with their Medicare number. We suggest that the Australian Digital Health Agency and the Department of Health put their heads together to see how these misunderstandings can be avoided in future.

L for licence to operate

Health Minister Greg Hunt had the conspiracy theorists in a bit of a tizz last week when he lodged a little piece of paper authorising that the opt-out model for the My Health Record begin some time next year. Everyone thought he'd already done this but it turns out it is a three-step process, with the actual date for the three-month opt-out period yet to be announced but most likely to begin in mid-2018.

That didn't stop the tinfoil hatters, though, who insisted that the three months actually began on the date he lodged the rule, namely last Thursday, and that the government was tricking us all into getting a MyHR without our knowledge. The horrors that lie within the MyHR are such that only by conning us will the government get anyone on board, they reckon.

What's going on with Health Care Homes?

The flurry of activity in the primary healthcare sector continued to dominate the news this week, with the big guns in the private pathology sector all now signing on to connect to the My Health Record, patient education getting a run and patient portals also in the news.

But while our most popular story for the week was the news that Primary and ACL are joining Sonic in working towards uploading private pathology reports to the national system, there was also news about other big public initiatives kicking off, including the cervical cancer screening program renewal and the second tranche of practices going live as Health Care Homes.

ADHA's positive self-report card

The Australian Digital Health Agency released its first annual report this week and gave itself a nice pat on the back for a few milestones reached. The agency, which likes to style itself as the Agency with a capital A and which we like to imagine is modelled after a certain bureau (of investigation) with a capital B, laid out its strategic priorities and how it reckons it measured up.

Turns out it reckons it did OK, fulfilling a number of strategic priorities such as setting up the secure messaging trials, writing the national digital health strategy, and increasing the number of people and organisations registered for the My Health Record. While the agency has been set up to handle a few different things, progress with the MyHR is of course the biggie, so we were keen to see what it had to report.

Listen to the heartbeat

Primary care was back in the news this week, highlighted by yesterday's announcement that Fred IT had won the tender to build Victoria's new real-time prescription monitoring system, with ReferralNet and Argus scoring a few runs on secure messaging, a new survey out looking at the digital general practice, and a whole gang of diagnostic imaging software vendors signing up for the My Health Record.

The survey, carried out by online booking, recall and reminder service HotDoc, had a number of very interesting nuggets – not the least of which is that yes, sometimes your patients will pay to not have to come in to see you – but also the finding that most people use online booking systems not for their own convenience but so they can book their personal doctor more conveniently. A good proportion are also willing to follow their doctor when they change practices, which just reiterates what everyone has been banging on about for years now about how the relationship between doctor and patient is a special one.

Clinical content is king

The My Health Record was back in the news bigly this week as the Digital Health Agency announced that three community pharmacy software vendors had connected to the system, joining frontrunners Fred IT and Simple Retail, which both managed the feat way back in May 2013.

With 1404 out of the estimated 5500 pharmacies in Australia currently registered with the system as of November 5, that number is likely to increase substantially. Symbion's Minfos, for example, boasts about 800 pharmacies as customers, and with the Pharmacy Guild and the Pharmaceutical Society now behind the My Health Record, we expect many of the others will sign up soon enough.

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