Pulse+IT Blog

Soldiering on with Covax

A couple of Melbourne hospitals were in the news this week, both for good and for unfortunate reasons. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital let us know that it had gone live with Cerner’s FirstNet in its emergency department and the ambulatory module in its acute ophthalmology clinic. Eye and Ear was one of the original HealthSmart hospitals but never fully rolled out the Cerner EMR as planned, instead using its PowerChart module mainly for order entry and discharge documentation.

Like some other hospitals that have had a go-live in the age of COVID, the Eye and Ear had a bit of a delay to its original plan, but it all seems to have gone smoothly since it went live last Monday. EMR project manager Neil Harris said that while FirstNet has been implemented in many EDs in big general hospitals, the specialist nature of the Eye and Ear made it a little different.

Please form an orderly queue

General practice telephone lines took a pounding this week as the federal government’s vaccination booking system roll-out took yet another turn for the worse. No one was expecting the eligibility checker and vaccine clinic finder site to go live on Wednesday morning but live it went, and while the platform is technically fine, its appointment availability limitations were immediately obvious to anyone trying to use it to actually make a booking.

The Department of Health is insisting that it emailed the 1000 or so listed practices on Tuesday to tell them it was going live the next day, and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is sticking to his guns with his belief that only practices who had “applied, been approved, and submitted an order themselves” were listed.

Clown show about to go off over booking system

This week we saw state and federal politicians dropping like flies, including Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who did his back in, and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who had a run in with cellulitis and ended up on an IV drip. It led to some unfortunate headlines such as the one that (warning: profanity) breakfast TV show Sunrise ran on Wednesday and also led Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take over as acting health minister, which is also turning out to be a bit unfortunate.

Mr Morrison may be able to sell some dodgy half-price plane fares as just the ticket to get the tourism industry back on its feet, but he was on much shakier ground today when he insisted to reporters that the government had not, in fact, promised that all Australians would be vaccinated by October.

From neglect to care, dignity and respect

It did not go unnoticed that the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released this week was titled Care, Dignity and Respect, a far more aspirational name than that which starkly laid out the findings of the commission’s interim report in October 2019: Neglect. That being said, if there was one sentence that summed up the findings of the final report and the national shame the royal commission has uncovered, it was this one: “Substandard care and abuse pervades the Australian aged care system.”

The 148 recommendations in the final report cover the gamut of issues facing the sector, from how to regulate it to how to fund it and how to ensure its vast workforce is equipped to adequately provide the care that appears to be so lacking. The final report also placed a good deal of emphasis on information, data and technology, which also appear to be sorely lacking.

Getting on the front foot with vaccination passport

New Zealand kicked off its Covid-19 vaccination program today, with vaccinators themselves receiving the first of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots and border and quarantine staff to follow from tomorrow. Australia is set to start on Monday, with frontline health workers, quarantine and border workers and aged care and disability residents all being prepared for the first phase.

The ball has started rolling on the largest vaccination programs our countries have ever seen, and the hope is the majority of our populations will be covered by October. We’ll wait and see on that as systems fall into place to support the wider roll-out to the community, and fingers crossed everything goes smoothly. Our technology companies are coming to the party, deploying IT solutions at pace, and we hope to hear more news on how general practice will be supported as it prepares.

Getting with the mass vax program

As the Phase 1a vaccination roll-out began this week in Australia, we had a quick chat to some of the head honchos at Cerner Asia Pacific about how the EMR vendor was helping its users in Australia get with the program. Cerner started working on a mass vaccination solution for its global clients in the middle of last year having foreseen that this would prove somewhat useful, and it has since swung into action and rolled it out in the US and the UK, which is acting as a reference site for Australian users.

Cerner sites such as Royal Prince Alfred, Liverpool and Westmead hospitals in Sydney and The Alfred in Melbourne began using the COVID-19 vaccination update that Cerner has tailored for the local market this week, with vaccination data able to be extracted and uploaded to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). We hear that a couple of Queensland hospitals are also using the new capability.

Vendors move quickly to fill tech void

The decision by the Victorian government to order a snap five-day lockdown from midnight on Friday shows just how crucial the COVID-19 vaccination program will be. As Nobel laureate Peter Doherty said, if we want to avoid this sort of constant economic and social disruption, we are going to need a vaccination rate of over 80 per cent.

That will mean retaining confidence in the vaccines themselves, and getting them out as quickly and efficiently as possible. And that will need good, efficient management of the first phases of distribution and administration in hospitals, residential aged care, general practice and pharmacies.

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