Pulse+IT Blog

Senate turns on a stunner

Political junkies were utterly entranced by the events in Canberra this week as Australia's 45th Parliament turned into an utter farce, the end result of which is that the government has lost its majority and the Senate has thankfully lost one of its looser marbles.

Senator-no-more Malcolm Roberts has been given the boot and few will miss his presence or his egregious attacks on science and the country's collective intelligence. At the same time, we have lost Fiona Nash as well. While she is a champion for rural Australians and their health, she rarely contributed much as the government's representative when the Senate community affairs committee examined the health portfolio during budget estimates hearings.

Political tremors hit the health IT world

Pretty much every Kiwi and many Australians – and the odd dual citizen, like me and my cuzzy bro Barnaby – were pretty much transfixed to the telly on Thursday as we awaited Winston Peters' announcement about who he'd back to occupy the top floors of the Beehive, and didn't Winston just love the limelight.

Considering how long he'd taken to deliberate and then to deliver the verdict, his choice of Labour became increasingly likely, so NZ now has a young, attractive leader to rival the Trudeaus and Macrons of this world. It will be a couple of days yet before we know who will take over the health portfolio but most people's money would be on Labour nabbing the ministry, health policy being one of its traditional strengths.

Bowling a wobbly to Beauchamp

The decision by former Department of Health secretary Martin Bowles to make a quick and unexpected exit from the public service and hand over to then Industry secretary Glenys Beauchamp back in August is looking increasingly like a clever move, with a few high-profile health and eHealth projects looking a little shaky at the moment, we are hearing.

According to The Mandarin, Mr Bowles' decision to decamp to Calvary Health Care with just nine days' notice was in part due to rumours, which Pulse+IT has also heard, about a difficult relationship with the office of Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Putting pen to paper

During my time working in tech support for a practice software developer following university, it became very apparent just how poorly understood basic computing technology was at the time. Early print editions of Pulse+IT spoke very much about these themes, with practical articles about scanners, monitors, printers, RAID and UPS all garnering lots of interest.

Eleven and a bit years later, computer hardware is rarely even talked about as an issue, with improvements to processing power, memory and storage capacity, and battery life having been so steady over the past decade that it is unlikely that your shiny new device is the limiting factor in your workflows.

Adventures under the cone of silence

We love it when we are perusing what are normally quite boring or opaque documents about health IT and we suddenly stumble across a hidden gem, like the mention in a recent tender for ACT Health that there were file types in a clinical information system that “frankly seem made up”, or in a Hansard transcript of the Senate inquiry into the Medicare number breach in which the RACGP's Rob Hosking used the infamous cone of silence from TV show Get Smart as a metaphor for making security so tight that nothing works anymore.

We couldn't make that hearing last Friday but the transcript makes for interesting reading and Computerworld covered it nicely in two stories, including a report on Dr Hosking's Maxwell Smartism. Reading the Hansard, we must admit we were a bit bemused by one witness who seemed to be recommending that because the My Health Record and the Department of Human Service's HPOS system can't be made 150 per cent secure they should be decommissioned and we should all carry our health information around on a smart card like they do in Germany.

NT in the News

By far the most read story this week on Pulse+IT was the sudden resignation of NT Health CIO Stephen Moo, which has come hot on the heels of the similarly unexpected exit from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services of its CIO, Andrew Saunders.

We first heard about Mr Moo's departure through an official email that was sent to us by a valuable source, but neither they nor we were prepared for the revelations in the NT News story that first broke the news on Monday.

Opinion: Can the Digital Health Strategy achieve its insubstantial goals?

For a long time I have been concerned that the Australian Digital Health Agency (previously NEHTA) has been attempting to develop various solutions to a number of complex digital health problems which it does not seem to really understand, and as a consequence it is promoting an assortment of unsubstantiated ideas deficient in clarity, prudence and substance.

I read the recently released Digital Health Strategy and at the end of the 63 pages I asked myself: so what? What did I learn and expect to learn? How clear was I about where we were heading? About how and when we were going to get there? And would it make a difference?

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