Pulse+IT Blog

My Health Record and the confessions of a doctor dodger

A landmark report in Australian healthcare was handed down this week with the release of the recommendations from the independent Primary Health Reform Steering Group on the federal government’s primary healthcare plan for the next 10 years.

The report is very much influenced by the Department of Health’s voluntary patient registration (VPR) model, which seems to have taken over as preferred policy from ideas like Health Care Homes and patient-centred medical homes. (It’s interesting that GPs who have in the past railed against the idea of capitation seem to be quite keen on VPR, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

MSIA on the warpath as Genie is let out of the bottle

A big week in health IT kicked off on Monday with the announcement that medical specialist software vendor Genie Solutions had been sold to Citadel Group for the very healthy sum of $260 million. Considering that a majority stake in Genie was sold just four years ago for $55m, this is a pretty good return on investment for its private equity investors, but coming off the back of the extraordinary amount that Telstra Health paid for MedicalDirector, it shows that there is serious money out there at the moment for technology stocks.

We understand from immaculate sources that Genie Solutions was still planning to publicly list as late as last week, but had also been in discussions with Citadel for some time and was also offered up to Telstra Health. Telstra had to decide between MedicalDirector and Genie as it could not afford both, and chose the former, paying $350m for the GP sector’s second most used software. While understandable in the short term considering Telstra has long spoken about joining up disparate parts of the healthcare system in Australia, of which GPs are fundamental, but when it comes to long-term growth, we think Genie was the better bet.

Australian digital health continues to reinvent the wheel

We know we keep banging on about it but another week in Australian pandemic news has again brought home how weak and disjointed our collective IT response has been, despite the considerable arsenal of top-notch systems that have already been developed for our health authorities and governments to use.

And yet we continue to try to reinvent the wheel. Nowhere was this more apparent than the announcement of a new Australian Digital Health Agency-led (ADHA) project for an assessment framework for mobile health apps. ADHA held a webinar on the topic this week that in our opinion was so badly staged we are not even deigning to report on it.

Does NSW get a pass on vaccine passports?

Vaccine passes were back in the news this week as Victor Dominello, NSW Minister for Customer Service – yes, that is his real title – got on the blower to spread the word that the NSW government will trial an addition to the existing Service NSW app that will draw down data from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) and allow fully vaccinated NSW residents free movement within the state.

While a PDF of the vaccine certificate is currently available through the Express Plus Medicare app – and My Health Record, although no one ever mentions this – the idea behind the NSW system is that it will be added to an already widely used app that also allows people to check into venues, so users only need to open the one app. Security will be similar to what already covers NSW’s digital driver’s licences, and so should be exceptionally good. (The PDF can also be downloaded to the Apple Wallet and Google Pay, too, which is useful.)

Vaccine passports on the near horizon as DIY booking sites ramp up

Vaccine passports are shortly to become the next digital battleground in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately they are likely to be as divisive as contact tracing apps have been so far. Various Australian states and territories are expected to release details on exactly how these passports will work in a domestic sense in the next couple of weeks, with a national standard for vaccine passports for international travel still a bit up in the air.

Services Australia has done a pretty good job in getting vaccine certificates quickly available on the Medicare Express Plus app – they are also available on My Health Record, although few seem to be going there – and mandatory reporting to the Australian Immunisation Register is very much helping to make this process seamless. However, the PDF versions of the certificate on the Express Plus app have repeatedly been shown to be easily hacked, with fraudulent copies easily created, so the existing solution is obviously not one that can be used as a passport without a few fixes being made very quickly.

Official solutions a bit late to the vax party

We finally got to the bottom of exactly what has been going on with NSW Health’s vaccine booking system this week, discovering through the NSW tender site that a contract had been signed with ServiceNow Australia for a full vaccine management system way back in May. A new system has since been gradually rolled out to replace the hastily put-together appointment booking conglomeration our correspondent had struggled for several weeks to use, which we wrote about back in July.

Light shed on the black pen of doom

The pettiness that can be indulged in by bureaucrats given free rein over government communications with a black pen was laid bare this week with the release to The Canberra Times of the full independent report into the COVIDSafe app and its usefulness during the first 10 months of the pandemic last year.

Readers will remember that a heavily redacted version was released publicly in July, with the vast majority blacked out or blanked out and what remained simply revealing a potted history of the app and its development. We suspected then that the report must have been uncomplimentary and so it has proved, but what was surprising was how ridiculous the redactions were, surely done for political reasons and not based on any great secrets of state.

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