The 2014 eHealth year in review: part three

After the flurry of debate following the release of the May budget, the Horvath review and the Royle review, attention in the third quarter of 2014 changed to the corporate sector. It was time for a couple of big players to make their moves, including Telstra Health, Hills and Orion Health, but as always, the PCEHR popped up as a constant bone of contention.

Pulse+IT has been following developments in designing a model to allow pathology and radiology results to be uploaded to the PCEHR for close to 18 months now, since former health minister Tanya Plibersek announced $8 million in funding at the HIC conference in Adelaide in July 2013.

While that announcement was greeted positively, there was a bit of an uproar when the Department of Health began to suggest that all diagnostic results be uploaded rather than the full pathologist's report, with both Pathology Australia and the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) both kicking up a stink about it. There was a also a distinct lack of agreement on what to do about diagnostic images.

There were some very heated debates last year, and then the PCEHR hiatus set in as the Royle review was awaited and there was no more progress until late June this year, when the department released two discussion papers on the proposed models.

It seemed by July that while it needed a lot of work, the authority to post (ATP) method had been agreed upon, but in August this seems to have been dumped in favour of a seven-day delay. This would raise many an eyebrow, with debate rumbling on for the rest of the year.

In the meantime, the presidency of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) was up for grabs, with all candidates mentioning eHealth as a priority. The eventual winner, Frank Jones, was full of praise for the use of IT in primary care, scathing about the lack of electronic communication from hospitals and specialists, and pragmatic in his approach to the PCEHR.

Things livened up with a good old-fashioned OMG-type situation over medical records left in a garden shed, but to the disappointment of many we discovered that the promised Deloitte “refresh” of the national eHealth strategy would remain secret even longer. Never fear, however: Deloitte was kept busy helping the Department of Health run consultation meetings on the Royle review and its recommendations.

Some major software deployments were announced in the third quarter, including a nationwide electronic donor record (EDR) based on the iTransplant medical information system, involving a real-time clinical data repository to streamline data sharing on organ donation and transplant processes; Justice Health in NSW went live with a new electronic medical record suite from Orion Health; CSC went live with a $56 million Defence eHealth Information System for the Australian Defence Force based on technology from the UK's EMIS; and Bankstown Hospital went live with its Paper-Lite EMR, digitising a whole hospital in the process.

In the jurisdictions, Queensland released a comprehensive report from its parliamentary inquiry into telehealth, recommending that Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg get on the blower to his federal counterpart and lobby for GPs to be able to bill Medicare for direct telehealth consultations with patients and that priority be given to implementing the NBN in remote communities.

The new heads of the newly formed eHealth NSW explained to a packed Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) NSW Healthcare special interest group function how the state planned to implement the Blueprint for eHealth in NSW, the eHealth plan for rural and remote NSW, and spend $400 million on ICT in the process.

Western Australia prepared for the opening of the flagship Fiona Stanley Hospital in early October, which went off without a hitch despite the widely publicised problems the hospital and the state government had experienced with its hugely complex, still unfinished IT system.

But it was in the corporate sphere where most of the news was made. Several major players made their presence felt, including technology solutions provider Datacom, which announced it was setting up a new healthcare solutions unit and taking a 20 per cent stake in Canberra-based health IT firm SmartWard.

At the Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) conference in Hobart, Hills of hoist fame announced its arrival on the healthcare scene. Hills had undergone an 18-month restructure that saw it divesting itself of heavy manufacturing – and later licensing its household products business to Woolworths – in order to concentrate fully on becoming a technology company.

One sector it is very keen on is health and aged care, leading to the establishment of a health solutions division that made some strategic purchases last year by acquiring Merlon, Hospital Television Rentals and Questek.

This year, it signed a distribution agreement for the Lively suite of home monitoring equipment, as well as an agreement with Irish company Lincor for its patient engagement technology suite.

Telstra Health also made a bit of a splash at ITAC, announcing it was planning to ditch the telehealth pilots and go for the jumbo jet, as well as explaining more fully its plans in community and residential aged care. Telstra's purchase of aged care software market leader iCareHealth later in the year would become one of Pulse+IT's most read stories for the period.

Other notable events at ITAC were the demonstration of a hands-free nursing system from HealthMetrics; Leecare's announcement it would roll out its P5 Exec module as a standalone application; Feros Care's announcement it would go gung-ho in supporting clients to use the PCEHR; and everyone agreed that while the new government had decided to fundamentally redesign the network, the NBN remained the gold standard for telehealth provision to older people at home.

Telstra Health then moved on to make a bigger splash at the Health Informatics Conference (HIC) in Melbourne in August. Not only did it show off new branding for some of the companies it has acquired, but it was the subject of much interest during the annual Q&A that has become a popular feature of the conference.

Most in the eHealth sector have been watching Telstra's movements closely since it first outlined its plans in full last year, first to investors and then to Pulse+IT. It was in October, however, when Telstra Health made its plans known to the wider community, as it officially launched its new business and in the process got the AMA's knickers in a knot. More on that tomorrow.

And then there was Orion Health. Long the subject of conjecture over the pond regarding its plans to go public, the darling of New Zealand's health IT sector provided an intriguing overview of its plans to take on the giants of global health IT at a customer conference in Sydney. Orion Health has plans, and they are big.

It was a big couple of months for eHealth, but here are some of the other software, apps and developments that caught our eye in the third quarter:

  • The intelligent Cardiovascular Information System (iCVIS), developed by Alcidion in association with Fujifilm Medical Systems, which went into full operational mode at Melbourne's Western Health at the end of September
  • NICTA announced it was looking for pilot customers for its new WebRTC-based telepresence platform, which is being trialled at the University of Canberra's new Health Hub to set up three-way consults to train allied health students
  • A study comparing the EyeSnellen app for iPad and iPhone with a traditional Snellen chart for measuring visual acuity showed they were equivalent, meaning the app can safely be used in rural and remote settings and mobile screening units
  • The Eyenaemia app from Monash students Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang, which picked up the duo a cool $50,000 at the worldwide Microsoft Imagine Cup
  • The Pepster device, which uses gaming techniques to help patients with cystic fibrosis complete positive expiratory pressure (PEP) therapy, which won its designer a $15,000 prize at the iAwards
  • The ApreSkin app for iPad, designed by Brisbane-based dermatologist Brad Jones and his team from 3D Medical Software, which promises to help streamline the way doctors perform skin consultations and improve the way they track and record patient data.
Missed the first instalments? Here they are:

2014 eHealth year in review: part one

2014 eHealth year in review: part two

The eHealth year in review concludes:

2014 eHealth year in review: part four

Posted in Australian eHealth

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