Pulse+IT Blog

Return of the JeHDI

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians was in the news this week with the release of its pre-election statement outlining what it thought should be on the policy agenda for the incoming government. There were some quite excellent suggestions in the document about preventative health and financial levers for improving chronic disease management and the obesity crisis, as well as a few long shots that have no chance of getting up.

Ideas like a tax on sugary drinks and volumetric taxation for alcohol are extremely unpalatable to the two major parties and would incite enormous rounds of pearl clutching from the anti-nanny state types, the very people who were responsible for encouraging the abolition of the Australian National Preventative Health Agency in 2014, which the RACP now wants re-established.

Microsoft schedules HealthVault's funeral

It didn't come as much of a surprise so soon after the news broke that Microsoft was dropping support for its Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health Dashboard apps that it was also canning its HealthVault personal health record. While HealthVault was a pretty good product, it really never got the uptake outside of the worried well and corporate wellness markets that it needed to survive.

There are still plenty of PHRs and similar sorts of apps on the market and Microsoft itself is recommending customers have a look around for alternatives. One is Get Real Health, which is offering to let HealthVault users migrate their data over to its Lydia platform and keep the same credentials. For those who have long memories, when Google pulled the plug on its Google Health product it told users to shop around, with one recommendation being HealthVault.

Is everything above board at the agency?

In what was a highly charged week in Australian politics featuring the final sitting of the 45th Parliament and big numbers being boasted in budget speeches, the appointment of a few new faces to the board of the Australian Digital Health Agency flew very much under the radar.

The announcement doesn't seem to have made any waves anywhere else apart from Pulse+IT, where we reported it the day before the official announcement was released, having been told by a very officious type at the Department of Health's media unit to mind our own business when we inquired about it earlier in the week. That of course just confirmed what we suspected.

No silver bullet for secure messaging

As we alluded to last week, the Australian Digital Health Agency has come back to the table this week with a bit of cash for clinical software vendors that weren't involved in the two secure messaging proof-of-concept trials it sponsored in Victoria to update their systems to incorporate new standards for interoperability.

While the money on offer was the headline, no one is under any illusion that this is the end of the road for what has been an intractable problem for well over a decade. In fact, pretty much everyone agrees it's just the start. Pulse+IT has written numerous screeds about the many challenges – technical, financial, cultural and practical – that face the healthcare industry in achieving a secure system of electronic communication so we won't repeat them again, but we will point you to an opinion piece we published yesterday by by Peter MacIsaac, who does a great job outlining some of the many challenges that remain, particularly around aspects such as message content and vocabulary adoption.

ADHA batting zero for two on My Health Record

For those among us who have despaired at the bungled, fumbled, laborious roll-out of the My Health Record over the last seven years, have we got news for you! The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has decided to take a look at the implementation of the system in all its gory details, and you get to have your say.

The ANAO has announced it is holding an audit to “assess the effectiveness of the Australian Digital Health Agency's implementation of the My Health Record system”. The audit will not cover the merits of government policy, it says, but it does have a role in assessing the efficient and effective implementation of government programs. You have until April 14 to have a say, with a report to be delivered in October.

Forget MyHR: SMD is back

As the hoo-ha over My Health Record dies down, this week the industry turned its attention back to a problem that has dogged the Australian healthcare system for well over a decade: secure messaging interoperability, or lack thereof, and the continued reliance on paper for clinical communication between different settings.

New Zealand is well on the way to solving this problem because it primarily uses one messaging service but also because its Health Information Standards Organisation (HISO) has managed to get consensus within the industry on standards for messaging along with code sets, security and privacy. New Zealand also has the benefit of a mature National Health Index (NHI) patient identifier and its associated health practitioner index.

Another round of turf wars erupt

It has been a bit quiet on the health IT front recently but things were enlivened somewhat this week with another eruption of the ongoing turf war between doctors and pharmacists. No sooner had a brief announcement of a partnership between health insurer Bupa and the newly merged TerryWhite Chemmart been released than the AMA decided to arc up, thundering about how it threatened the very foundations of general practice.

It's doubtful that there's really much cause for concern over a vague agreement on reducing some costs for medications and supplies for Bupa health fund members, combined with a bit of encouragement to take part in in-pharmacy health screening programs pharmacies and the promise of a dinky new health app, but the AMA let fly nonetheless.

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