Pulse+IT Blog

Canberra beckons Mr Popularity Contest

The week in eHealth kicked off with the return of an old face at the helm of the health ministry in Canberra with Greg Hunt – or Greg “I came third in a popularity contest with Steve Ciobo” Hunt as we like to call him – taking up his old position on the front bench.

How that is so after first throwing his hat into the ring with Peter Dutton, then declaring undying loyalty to Malcolm Turnbull before having to swear fealty to the new boss in Scott Morrison we don't know, but it just goes to show that no matter how diminished you are as a politician in the eyes of the electorate, the media and your own party, a cushy spot on the green leather lounge is still yours if no one else wants the portfolio.

Former health minister putsch goes down in flames

Poor old Greg Hunt has certainly played a blinder of epically bad proportions this week, the former health minister having hitched his wagon to another former health minister in Peter Dutton in this week's shenanigans in Canberra and subsequently going down in flames.

At the instigation of yet another former health minister in Tony Abbott, Mr Dutton decided to take it upon himself to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week and in the process pretty much hand the next election to Labor. Like the last one, the next election will largely be swayed by people's concerns over healthcare and how to pay for it.

My Health Record's Macbeth moment

So, here we go again: yet another Senate inquiry has been called into the My Health Record and cynics that we are, we think it will simply be an exercise in thrashing out the same arguments we've all heard before.

There was the 2010 debate on how this thing would look, the 2011 debate on the legislation enabling it, the 2012 botched go live, the 2013 Royle review, the 2014 decision to keep it going, the 2015 decision to trial opt-out, the 2016 trials, the 2017 COAG approval for opt-out, and now here we are in 2018, in the middle of the opt-out period, and we get another inquiry.

Doctors burn out, MyHR flares up

Pulse+IT had hoped to keep our weekend edition a My Health Record-free zone this week considering all of the recent palaver, but it just keeps popping up saying “look at me, look at me” and we find we just can't seem to drag our eyes away.

We hold firm to the belief that the heat over the opt-out debate is dying down somewhat – Google Trends agrees with us, although as you'll see from the poll below, two-thirds of Pulse+IT readers don't – but we did expect an eruption to flare up now and then and it did so this week.

MHR debacle week 2, electric boogaloo

Just as we thought some of the gas was escaping from the My Health Record opt out Hindenburg, yet another drama exploded at the start of the week as the media and the privacy lobby seized on the wording of section 70 of the My Health Record Act, a couple of paragraphs of legalese that is either quite straight forward or a stain on humanity depending on your point of view.

Various interpretations of exactly what s70 means abounded, but it in effect lays out the circumstances under which the My Health Record system operator, namely the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), would be authorised to release health information to law enforcement officials, including the police and the immigration department.

Hunt takes the heat off the MyHR Hindenburg

It's not often that we admit that a politician has done a sensible thing but that is what Health Minister Greg Hunt did this week, announcing he would introduce an amendment to the My Health Record act to enshrine a requirement for a court order before allowing law enforcement officials to access the system.

This is already the policy and usual practice anyway and has been for six years, but the 2012 legislation does not makes this explicit. Now, it will. Added to the announcement on Thursday at the COAG Health Council meeting that the opt-out period would be extended by an extra month, and a unanimous agreement that the jurisdictions were committed to opt out, the decision already seems to have already taken the heat off the potential Hindenburg that opt-out was becoming.

New week, same shemozzle

One day in the not-too-distant future, communications and business students in universities across the land will sign up for a course called Marketing Disasters 101 and be presented with a case study about the utter train wreck that was the great My Health Record opt-out launch of July 2018.

Pretty much the only thing that could have made this week's debacle worse would have been an actual breach of the system itself. On Monday morning, a huge gang of online activists were just waiting for the clock to tick over to opt out before they let all hell break loose, and my word did they succeed. Social and mass media were dominated in the morning by stories about long delays and system collapses, and by the afternoon it had turned into a veritable production line of tinfoil hats.

One absolute hero got on the phone at 7am to opt out and then for the next few hours martyred himself to the cause by giving 10-minute updates on Twitter about how long he had to wait on the hotline. In the afternoon, he took to claiming that the use of the reCaptcha plug-in on the opt-out website meant everyone's identity verification information was now being flogged off to Google.

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