Pulse+IT Blog

Heading to HIC as eHealth strategy emerges

It didn't come as much of a surprise to learn late on Friday that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council had given the go-ahead to the new national digital health strategy. After all, it was revealed just recently that the state and territory health departments were all pretty keen on it and had recommended that everyone at COAG say aye as well.

What has come as a surprise is that the strategy is actually pretty good. We were dreading the usual high falutin' but meaningless verbiage that usually infests these documents but while the strategy is a bit too long, it is at the same time succinct, and more importantly it is written in plain English so even nincompoops like us can understand it.

Hennessy gazumps Hunt on prescription monitoring

Pulse+IT was indulging in a session of Olympic-class eye rolling on Friday after we received a bunch of tweets telling us that Greg Hunt was boasting his government was going to solve the long-term problem of accidental prescription drug overdoses by funding the roll-out of a national real-time prescription monitoring scheme to the tune of $16 million.

We've covered this topic at length for many years now and were there the last time this scheme was announced, which was back in 2012 and by a different health minister in a different government and costing $8m at the time. (This of course followed $5m being allocated two years before that, in the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement.) It's the same old story though: here's a problem we know about, here's one way we can help solve it, let's do very little for five years and then – ta-da! – here's $16 million and a nice press release. All sorted.

Recurrent case of mushroom syndrome

In what is an unusually quiet period for the normally super-active eHealth sector, our top story this week turned out to be the fortnight-old news that the draft of the long-promised national digital health strategy would be on the agenda of the COAG Health Council when it meets next month.

We first heard about this on July 4, although to be honest it's not a secret. Having been delayed repeatedly since 2013 and rewritten a couple of times, the strategy was next scheduled for November 2016 but was delayed yet again until the newly appointed Australian Digital Health Agency CEO could put his mark on it.

Pondering professional trust and patient privacy

One of the most popular stories this week on Pulse+IT was our article on Queensland's move to allow GPs to take a look at their patient's hospital medical record through a new portal that links to Queensland Health's The Viewer, the web-based application that lets QH clinicians see patient data from different clinical systems and different hospitals throughout the state.

The Queensland government had to write new legislation last year to get the system up and running, and from what we hear, it is going to be a very popular move. There are strict privacy and registration procedures that GPs have to go through, including lots of hoops to prove their identity before they are allowed to register, but in the wake of last week's revelation that it may be the HPOS system at fault for the Medicare number leak, that's probably not a bad thing.

Has the worm turned for hospital EMRs?

Coming hot on the heels of our poll from last week that asked whether the very large sums being spent on digitising our hospitals were justified – close to 60 per cent of you said yes – came the news late last week that InterSystems had snaffled the huge contract to roll out its technology for the Northern Territory's public health system.

We always had our money on InterSystems, a relative quiet achiever that has seen real progress with its TrakCare suite, which it markets outside of the US. Trak has had a few other high-profile wins in our part of the world, including for the new hospital at Bendigo and the replacement of a number of best-of-breed systems at Macquarie University Hospital in Sydney a couple of years ago, but this implementation will be watched more keenly than most.

Medicare breach response doesn't cut the mustard

The slightly delayed Digital Hospitals Handbook and news that Telstra Health had been granted access to the My Health Record system for its HealthNow app may have been the most popular stories on Pulse+IT this week, but out in the wider health and IT communities one story dominated, and that was the Guardian newspaper's discovery that Medicare numbers were for sale in the darker recesses of the internet.

Guardian journalist Paul Farrell was able to buy his own number for the price of a few bitcoins from a cheery-sounding vendor on the dark web, and his resulting story made waves around the country on Tuesday. It doesn't appear that everyone's numbers have been released but Mr Farrell's investigations show that the vendor had made a few tidy sales, numbering about 75 all up.

Budgets go big in eHealth bonanza

We must admit to being momentarily gobsmacked when we received a joint press release from the NSW Treasurer and Minister for Health last Saturday proclaiming that the state was spending $536 million on eHealth over the next eight years, with a portion of the money starting to flow this year. We double-checked the figures on Monday morning just to be sure there was no double counting, but right it was.

When added to the approximately $400 million shelled out by the Coalition since 2011, we're looking at close to a billion dollars, and that's just from the current government. Granted, that money is spread over 16 years, but it's still a massive number, even among the eye-popping overall annual budget for NSW Health of $23 billion.

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