The 2014 eHealth year in review: part two

It wasn't just the long delayed release of the Royle review into the PCEHR that had the industry on tenterhooks in the second quarter of the year. John Horvath's review into Medicare Locals was also due to be delivered, and while Prime Minister Tony Abbott had announced before last year's election that there would be no reductions in the number of MLs, most took that with a grain of salt considering Peter Dutton's obvious disdain for the structure of the organisations.

In early April, Mr Dutton told the Standing Council on Health (SCoH) meeting of state and territory health ministers that the federal government was committed to an electronic health record, but whether that was the PCEHR or something else was up to interpretation.

Release five of the PCEHR was to have been made available in April and then in May, but the announcement of the Royle review and a hiatus in development work on the system meant it was pushed back to November.

Of peripheral interest was the release of the national Commission of Audit report, which besides recommending a digital by default strategy and greater use of the myGov website, turned out to be a damp squib.

The Horvath report into Medicare Locals, on the other had, turned out as expected and recommended a fundamental realignment of the 61 Medicare Locals into a minimum of 13 primary health organisations. This moniker was later changed to Primary Health Networks (PHNs), with the number set at 30.

As the budget loomed ominously, everyone got on with doing other things, including HCN – later in the year to rebranded itself as MedicalDirector – which was gearing up for a mid-year launch of its next release, featuring the PCEHR assisted registration and NPDR functionality the practice management software companies were all working on.

The primary care vendors were also taking part in the first round of NEHTA's clinical usability program (CUP), which aimed to make usability enhancements to the PCEHR interfaces in clinical information systems.

In acute care, EMR giant Epic made a splash with the announcement it had been chosen to provide an electronic medical record for Melbourne's Royal Children’s Hospital in a $48 million deal. It will be the first installation in Australia for the secretive US firm.

Royal Adelaide Hospital began a trial of of over-the-phone consultations and a computerised questionnaire for pre-operative assessments, dubbed Computer Health Assessment by Telephone (CHAT). It is based on a pre-screening model developed by the head of acute care medicine at the University of Adelaide Guy Ludbrook and colleagues.

The antimicrobial stewardship software program known as eASY, designed by clinicians from the Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD), underwent an update, with new functionality added that provides decision support on drug dosing and multi-site levels of restriction.

In aged care, Wesley Mission Brisbane (WMB) embarked on a mobility strategy for its 12 residential aged care communities, equipping care staff with mobile devices to provide real-time access to the organisation's roll-out of Leecare's cloud-based Platinum 5.0 clinical information system, while the industry as a whole began to prepare for the imminent implementation of consumer-directed care (CDC).

Pharmacy market leader Fred IT was in beta testing for its new cloud-based dispense and management solution Fred NXT, while the Amcal and Guardian chains of pharmacies joined Chemmart, PharmaSave and Terry White in signing up to the MedAdvisor patient medications compliance program developed by Actavis and integrated with the Pharmacy Guild's GuildCare software platform.

The big story, however, was the federal budget on May 13 – which funded the PCEHR for another year through a $140.6 million commitment and took all of Professor Horvath's recommendations on board for Medicare Locals, but also introduced the loathed $7 GP co-pay – followed by the release a week later of the Royle review report into the PCEHR.

Amongst a host of recommendations, the headline ones were the move to an opt-out model and the dissolution of NEHTA.

While Mr Dutton said he wanted quick feedback on the opt-out model, by the end of the year the government still hadn't released its reaction to the review or its plan for the PCEHR beyond June 30, 2015.

The quarter was rounded out by revelations of a major security flaw in the MyGov website – the Department of Human Services has since added an extra security layer – and a nice little scoop for Pulse+IT when we reported that former AMA president Steve Hambleton was likely to be named as the new chairman of NEHTA, despite having recommended the organisation be disbanded.

That scoop was officially confirmed the next day, and Dr Hambleton said he intended to play an active role in improving clinical input into eHealth and in influencing the direction of NEHTA.

Some of the interesting software, apps and projects that caught our eye this quarter included:

  • The My eRecord that eight Queensland disability service providers have rolled out, based on Extensia's RecordPoint technology, to collect health and personal information that GPs can access through an adaptor
  • The Vitro paperless chart software from Irish company Slainte Healthcare that is being used at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse and Calvary Health Care Bethlehem and has been likened to “intelligent paper on glass”
  • Online referral tool MEDrefer added to its Best Practice integration with a partnership with Genie Solutions, allowing specialists using Genie to display their availability in their MEDrefer profile directly from their appointment book
  • Digital health company uHealth signed a distribution agreement with the makers of the AliveCor health monitoring device and launched a consumer-focused information service on emerging medical technologies called Medee
  • The AliveCor heart monitor and iPhone ECG device was shown to be feasible and cost effective in screening older people for atrial fibrillation (AF) in both the general practice and community pharmacy settings in a study by the University of Sydney
  • Victoria's Peninsula Health, technology vendor Medtech Global and the CSIRO got the go-ahead in late June to trial remote monitoring of patients with chronic heart failure in their homes, using Medtech's VitalMed software and its ManageMyHealth portal.

If the first half of the year was dominated by public wrangling over the PCEHR, the budget and the future of NEHTA, the second half of the year was the domain of the private sector. In the next six months the industry would see the emergence of Hills Health Solutions as a major player in acute and aged care, Orion Health aiming for the skies as it prepared for an IPO, and the 18-month-long softly softly approach by Telstra Health suddenly breaking out and garnering all of the headlines.

Missed the first instalment? Here it is:

2014 eHealth year in review: part one

Catch up with the rest of the eHealth year in review:

2014 eHealth year in review: part three

2014 eHealth year in review: part four

Posted in Australian eHealth

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