Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter - Anzac Day Break - Back On The April 27, 2014

Unless there is important breaking news I plan to have a short break from the blog till Sunday 27 April.

Hopefully we will all be rested and ready to face the draconian budget Mr Hockey is clearly planning.

Enjoy the days off!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pre - Budget Review Of The Health Sector - 16th April 2014.

As we head towards the Budget in Early to Mid-May 2014 I thought It would be useful to keep a closer eye than usual on what was being said regarding what we might see coming out of the Budget.
According to the Australian Parliament web site Budget Night will be on Tuesday 13th May, 2014.
Here are some of the more interesting articles I have spotted this week.

Hockey must work an economic miracle

Rob Burgess 11 Apr, 5:32 PM
If ever a Treasurer has had a spinning-plate trick on his hands, it's Joe Hockey. When he returns from his G20 discussions in the US, Hockey will need every ounce of skill to keep the sticks and plates spinning lest one should fall, bringing the economy down with it.
What are the plates? In no particular order, the main ones are: the housing market, the Aussie dollar, business and consumer confidence, business investment, the jobs market and immigration.
Spend too long spinning one, and the others lose momentum. It really will be an extraordinary achievement if Hockey can pay attention to them all, and avoid a once in a generation tumble in living standards.

State health ministers claim bureaucracies out of line

STATE governments are concerned that health bureaucracies established by the former federal Labor government are straying beyond their charter and flouting the intent of approaches agreed at the Council of Australian Governments.
Federal, state and territory health ministers meeting in Brisbane yesterday were understood to have voiced concerns about several national bodies and asked their advisory body to investigate their activities.
The independent agencies were established by the Rudd-Gillard governments to drive the health reform process. They include the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, the National Health Funding Body and the National Health Performance Authority.

Pharmacy central to the community

The Guild’s Pharmacy Under Threat campaign is reaching a vital stage.
No one at the Guild is under any illusion about the difficulty of the task. We know the Government is broke and the Minister has said there is no money to address the impact of the pre-election changes to price disclosure on pharmacies.
However this is not about money. It is about breaching the Community Pharmacy Agreement with Australia’s 5300 community pharmacies.
For that reason, the Guild’s National President George Tambassis has made clear to the Minister personally that the Guild will continue to campaign until this injustice is satisfactorily addressed.

Peter Dutton considers plan to withhold family tax benefits if children aren't immunised

April 11, 2014
An expert has warned the Federal Government that withholding tax benefits from families who choose not to immunise their children is unlikely to achieve real change.
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton will discuss the issue when he meets with his state counterparts in Brisbane today.
The minister vowed to tackle the problem while touring the New South Wales north coast, where some communities have low childhood vaccination rates.
Mr Dutton says it might be time for the Government to take a tougher stance, adding that immunisation is "very important" for children and the wider community.

Commonwealth considers withholding payments to immunisation objectors

April 10, 2014
The Federal Government is considering withholding tax benefits from families in the region who choose not to immunise their children.
Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton, will discuss the issue with his state counterparts in Brisbane tomorrow.
The minister vowed to tackle the problem while touring the north coast, where some communities have childhood vaccination rates below 50 per cent.

Union fears Guild report may spark redundancies

10 April, 2014 Nick O'Donoghue
Employee pharmacists are being encouraged to make sure they know their rights redundancy rights following the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s recent Employment Expectations Report.
The report predicted as many as 2200 pharmacist jobs could be axed this year, as pharmacies struggle to manage the impact of price disclosure.
However, Dr Geoff March, Professional Pharmacists Australia president, warned that “unscrupulous pharmacy operators” may use the Guild’s forecast as an excuse to cut staff, only to re-hire pharmacists on lower wages.

GP in court win over super clinic

8th Apr 2014
THE department of health has been court ordered to review a district of workforce shortage (DWS) application it rejected for a $10 million GP super clinic in Queensland.
The Townsville-based centre is expected to open in June, but operator Dr Evan Nicholls has been running an interim super clinic service nearby employing four international medical graduates (IMGs).
In 2012, the department refused to allow him to maintain the arrangement at the new clinic just 2km away, which would have maintained the IMGs’ eligibility for provider numbers.

Healthcare put at risk as patients shy away from cost

Date April 10, 2014 - 1:01AM

Lucy Carroll

Health Reporter

Treatment delays: Patients are being put off visiting GPs because of expensive medical fees and long waiting lists.
Year-long waiting lists and high medical fees are causing people in NSW to stop or delay treatment, health professionals say.
A  Bureau of Health Information report shows that despite NSW having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, 15per cent of patients put off GP visits, filling a prescription and getting basic medical tests because of out-of-pocket expenses.
One third did not see the dentist because they could not afford to.

The Australian Medical Association blasts consideration of a fee for visiting emergency departments

Louise Yaxley reported this story on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 18:10:00
DAVID MARK: The Australian Medical Association is heavily critical of an idea to impose a charge for people who present at hospital emergency departments with minor problems.
The rapidly rising cost of health means the Federal Government's considering new measures in the budget to make Medicare more sustainable, including the emergency charge.
The AMA says charging people for some visits to emergency departments won't save money and could instead drive up health costs by deterring people from seeking help until a problem is severe.
The Opposition's already on the attack.

Health Minister Jack Snelling wants plans to charge hospital emergency fees for minor ailments scrapped

  • The Advertiser
  • April 09, 2014 10:58PM
THE architect of the controversial $6 GP fee proposal, Tony Abbott adviser Terry Barnes, says patients with minor ailments attending emergency departments should be charged $36.
The possible charge, floated as a measure to deter people from avoiding the proposed Medicare co-payment for GP services by presenting at emergency departments with minor ailments, has been flatly rejected by South Australian Health Minister Jack Snelling, who will demand the scrapping of any plans to charge public-health patients when he meets federal and state counterparts on Friday.
“We spend tens of millions of dollars on avoidable admissions to hospital, conditions that would not be there if people had good access to GPs,” he said. “It is already hard for many people to access a GP. Whacking an extra cost to see a GP and then to a ED won’t help people. I will not be blithely going along with my Liberal colleagues on this.”

Doors set to open on new GP super clinic

By Kate Stephens
9 April, 2014
The company building a multi-million-dollar GP super clinic in north-west Queensland says the facility is due to open in weeks.
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton has halted funding for three super clinics across the country and is reviewing others.
The Mount Isa clinic was first announced by the Labor government in 2007, and Kinetic Health, which is now Sonic Youth Plus, was awarded $5 million to build the facility.

Riverina MP says Narrandera GP Superclinic is funded, but can't rule out cuts in the future

April 9, 2014
The Member for Riverina says the government's decision to reduce funding for Labor's GP Superclinic program, will not impact local facilities.
Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton, announced yesterday the government was suspending construction funding for three clinics.
Under the $650m scheme 60 clinics were funded around the country, including one at Narrandera, opening in 2011.

'Hospital tax' a Labor scare: Dutton

11:42am April 9, 2014
The Abbott government has accused Labor of mounting a "disgraceful and alarmist" scare campaign over reports patients who crowd emergency departments with minor ailments may be charged.
The government is reportedly considering a plan to deter people from visiting emergency departments by charging them if they show up with minor complaints such as stubbed toes or common colds.
The proposal would come as part of the possible introduction of a $6 Medicare co-payment, which many believe would lead to hospital overcrowding, News Corp Australia reported on Wednesday.

Time to adopt NZ health insurance model

Mark Fitzgibbon
Try to think of an industry in which highly qualified operators have clients willing to pay them for services rendered but in which government says no. And it’s not the production of crystal methamphetamine?
Sadly, the answer is healthcare with both doctors and consumers the losers.
Thankfully, led by Health Minister Peter Dutton we’re now having a discussion on the absurdity of current commercial restraints imposed upon doctors and health insurers. In a nutshell, existing laws restrain insurers from paying or contributing towards mainstream medical services provided by GPs, as well as those provided outside a hospital by specialists (i.e. those services with a Medicare scheduled benefit).

Federal Government moves to dismantle Labor's GP super-clinic program

By political reporter Anna Henderson
Posted Tue 8 Apr 2014, 2:22pm AEST
The Federal Government is moving to dismantle Labor's GP super-clinic program by trying to claw back money from centres that are yet to be built.
GP super-clinics with longer opening hours, more staff and broad medical services were a major plank of Labor's health policy in government, with $650 million earmarked for 60 clinics.
But Health Minister Peter Dutton has criticised the slow building process and the cost of the scheme.

Darwin super-clinic dumped as federal Health Minister Peter Dutton moves to claw back funds

Posted Tue 8 Apr 2014, 3:22pm AEST
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton says he will talk with the Giles Government about ways to improve health services in the Northern Territory after dumping a planned GP super-clinic in Darwin's northern suburbs.
The former federal Labor Government set aside $5 million for the project in 2010 but it has never got off the ground.
Mr Dutton says super clinics around the country have failed to reduce hospital waiting times and the money would be better spent on hospital beds.
8 April 2014, 2.41pm AEST

Rationing care vs increasing taxes – the health system sustainability myth

IIn the lead-up to the May budget, the seemingly inexorable rise in health spending has unleashed a “sustainability panic”: rhetoric that health system costs are out of control and drastic measures are…
Stephen Duckett
Director, Health Program at Grattan Institute
In the lead-up to the May budget, the seemingly inexorable rise in health spending has unleashed a “sustainability panic”: rhetoric that health system costs are out of control and drastic measures are needed to make the system affordable.
Sustainability panic is often used to justify shifting the burden of controlling health spending from the wider society to a vulnerable few – people with poor health who frequently go to doctors and hospitals, for example, or those with high needs and potentially shortened life expectancy. Proposals to limit access to care or to introduce co-payments for doctor visits would fall heavily on these groups.
Rationing health care is seen as a potential solution to the presumed cost explosion; the alternative being tax increases or some other unpalatable solution.

Doctors' contracts dispute: AMA urges doctors to consider signing as changes made

By Ashleigh Stevenson
Posted 7 hours 25 minutes ago
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says changes to the Queensland Government's controversial new contracts for doctors should address some major concerns.
Doctors have been threatening to quit the state's public hospital system en masse over the proposed contracts.
The State Government says sticking points regarding rosters and unfair dismissal have been addressed in an addendum that will be rolled into the agreements.

'Profitability' clause concession in Qld contract dispute

8th Apr 2014
QUEENSLAND doctors will be spared from worrying about the profitability of their hospital under a state government concession on contracts.
Senior medical officers have threatened to quit over the individual contracts, which need to be signed by 30 April.
But in a move to end the long-running dispute, the government has offered to remove an existing clause where doctors could be sacked if their work impedes the profitability of their local health service.
Lobby group Keep Our Doctors feared medicos would think twice before keeping patients in for longer, or doing a costly experimental treatment.

Super clinics scrapped

8th Apr 2014
THE company contracted to deliver a super clinic in Darwin is assessing its future and legal rights today after it was told by the Department of Health that the project has been suspended.
The Darwin super clinic is one of three projects suspended by the Coalition in what is understood to be a broader move to recoup up to $27 million in allocated but unspent super clinic funding.
Operators of the $7 million Perth-based Rockingham GP super clinic and the $15 million Wynnum super clinic in Brisbane – both in the planning and development stages – have also been advised by the department that their funding has been suspended.

Super clinics will be scrapped: Labor’s $650 million ‘dangerous’ healthcare ‘disaster’ abandoned

  • April 08, 2014 12:00AM
·  exclusive simon benson national political reporter
THE federal government has suspended funding to three GP super clinics promised under Labor’s bungled $650 million rollout and will audit a dozen more after it was discovered that they had been sitting on millions of dollars of taxpayers money since 2010 without a sod being turned.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that Health Minister Peter Dutton has ordered that funding of $25 million be suspended to at least three of the clinics, in Darwin, Rockingham south of Perth and Brisbane, and will seek to recover the money.
All three super clinics were promised by Labor in 2010, yet construction has not started on any of them.
The drumbeat suggesting a tough budget has been building. The final report of the Commission of Audit (COA) has been handed to Government and as I predicted we are starting to see some hints and leaks.
Economically we now have the Treasurer as well as both the Reserve Bank Governor and the Secretary of The Treasury saying we have very serious budgetary problems - and we can be sure all three have seen the COA.
Really it seems to me the only question is just how big the cuts are and where they will fall. I suspect the answer is pretty big and everywhere! If the leaks are to be believed the age pension and the health sector are in line for a major shakeup.
To remind people there is also a great deal of useful discussion here from The Conversation.
As usual - no real news on the PCEHR Review.
More next week.

Three Interesting Privacy Related Events Are Happening For Privacy Week Next Month - May 2014.

I was let know about these earlier today.
There are 3 very important privacy events happening in May to celebrate Privacy Awareness Week. Two of them are in Sydney and there is one in Brisbane.
The events on data breaches and vulnerabilities would definitely be of interest  to those who read this blog.
Dates and links are below.
6 May After work Presentation  - Data breach - Sydney -
These are always good sessions so it is worth considering going along.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Is This The First Leak On The Outcome Of The PCEHR Review? I Wonder.

This appeared today in the AFR.

eHealth scheme considered for cuts

Joanna Heath
The Abbott government is considering ­publishing a review into the previous government’s eHealth scheme before the budget, prompting speculation the $1 billion program is in line for cuts.
Health Minister Peter Dutton has previously signalled his opposition to the scheme, which allows patients to opt-in to a personal electronic record of their medical history, calling the rollout under Labor a “scandal”.
The government was handed the results of the review in January this year, with its authors left in the dark about a release date. Freedom of information requests to obtain the report have been refused.
“We thought it was going to be mid-January, then mid-February, then April,” said panel member and Australian Medical Association ­president Steve Hambleton.
“eHealth is really on hold at the moment in Australia . . . everything is waiting on clarification as to the direction.”
The report is understood to ­recommend the eHealth system be retained but with changes made to its operation. Mr Dutton was ­unavailable for comment on ­Monday. After a slow start in uptake criticised by Mr Dutton, 1.5 million Australians were signed up for ­personal eHealth records by April 9.
More here:
This would seem to support the conclusion that eHealth may survive but not in its present form as suggested in yesterday’s blog here:
What do you think?

A New Paper On A Digitally Enabled Health System From The CSIRO. A Trifle Unrealistic I Believe.

The report was released a week or two ago.
Here is a report on the paper.

Data Role

Technology will be a key factor controlling the exponential rise of healthcare costs in Australia’s future, according to the newly-released CSIRO paper, A Digitally Enabled Health System. 
The paper was released during the Health-e-Nation 2014 Summit, and Dr David Hansen, who is CEO of the Australian e-Health Research Centre (AEHRC), a CSIRO and QLD government joint-venture, says that it will be a talking point that spurs future research collaborations.
“There’s been a lot of downloads of the document,” he says. “We have had serious numbers of hits on it.”
Launched under CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services flagship, the report outlines digital remedies for key healthcare issues in Australia’s health system and outlines benefits through improved service quality and patient centricity.
Dr Hansen says that a key driver in future health research will be data, with clinical ontology playing a “huge role.”
“There is a real maturing, with the personally controlled electronic health record bedding down,” he says.
“We are also seeing hospitals really recognising that their data is a key asset to them and starting to use it in different ways to improve services and to support research into best practice and into clinical research,” he says.
The Digitally Enabled Health System report calls patient-centric data “the lifeblood of tomorrow’s health system,” and notes that currently, adverse medication reactions account for around three per cent of al hospital admissions, with about half of these preventable.
 Lots more here:
Here is a direct link to the report.

A digitally-enabled health system

What will our healthcare system look like, once the full potential of the digital era is harnessed?
  • 26 March 2014


Australia's health system faces significant challenges including rising costs, an aging population, a rise in chronic diseases and fewer rural health workers. Treasury estimates even suggest that at current rates of growth, and without significant change, health expenditure will exceed the entire state and local government tax base by 2043. We need to look at new ways to make the health system work smarter. Digital technologies and health service innovation promise that.
This report A Digitally-enabled Health System looks at how the Australian health system can reduce costs and deliver quality care.
Some of the technology identified in the report includes telepresence robots taking rural health workers on city rounds, wireless ID wristbands monitoring patients in real time, mobile health apps assisting with at-home rehab and smart software that knows what patients will be turning up to emergency departments, 6-12 months in advance.
More is found here:
It is worth downloading the report to see how impractical some reports can be and how the theoreticians can rather miss the obvious issues.
To me the 2020 vision is probably early by a decade at least - see page 21 to see a proposed scenario.
My reason for saying this is simply based on the time it has taken to get to where we are in mid-2014 from the serious start to hospital and GP automation which got seriously underway in the late 1990s.
After 15 years we still do not have advanced level of automation in most hospitals and it seems very unlikely to me this vision will happen much before 2030. This is because it seems to me the report just ignores the scale of the change management and cost issues that will be associated with a transition to this proposed vision.
It also strikes me that by 2020 the technologies being appropriate to be deployed may be very different to those discussed here. Remember the iPad was only introduced in March 2010 - all of just 4 years ago - and who would have seen their impact coming!
The report also seems to somehow skate over the necessary basic IT infrastructure which is by no means generally in place as needed.
In summary a nice glossy brochure which I suspect is rather narrow in focus and not really addressing the basic gaps we presently have. Walking properly before you run is a sensible motto, and we are barely yet upright so far!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 14th April, 2014.

Here are a few I have come across the last week or so.
Note: Each link is followed by a title and a few paragraphs. For the full article click on the link above title of the article. Note also that full access to some links may require site registration or subscription payment.

General Comment

Really quite an interesting week. We have NEHTA coming out and agreeing there are some security problems with EHRs and the PCEHR, Dubbo being recruited to using the PCEHR and some really interesting and successful private sector e-Health initiatives.
Still no news from the PCEHR Review and it is now less than a month till Budget night.

IT spend on healthcare continues apace in Asia Pacific

Australia is up there with other Asia Pacific countries in continuing a steady increase in IT investment in the healthcare sector. China is the fastest growing IT spender, with a new market report showing an expected APAC region annual growth rate in IT spending on healthcare of 8%.
China is predicted to outstrip other APAC countries over the next five years, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.7% on IT spending in its healthcare sector.
In its latest Health Insights report, IDC says that Australia, China, India, Singapore and South Korea represented close to 90% of Asia Pacific IT healthcare IT spending last year.

Privacy minefield

8th Apr 2014
SHARING or secrecy? E-health is forcing GPs to wrestle with competing demands while trying to protect patient privacy.
It's good to share, right? 
Think again.
As kids we might have faced a slap on the wrist for not sharing properly. Now, under the new Australian Privacy Principles, we face a $1.7 million slap in the face.
But that’s just not fair, I hear you cry. How am I supposed to play with the 900,000 medical apps available on iTunes without making a bit of a mess? And how do I know all my stuff is safe when I lock it up at night in the great national information cupboard?
There was a day when patient confidentiality was almost child’s play. Now, with enticing opportunities for improved sharing of information through telehealth advances but draconian penalties facing those who break the sharing rules, GPs are caught between a rock and a hard place, otherwise known as the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR).

New e-recall program kicks off

8 April, 2014 Chris Brooker
The recall process for therapeutic goods is set to be streamlined for pharmacists with the launch of GS1 Recallnet Healthcare – an electronic product recall notification management system.
Developed over four years by GS1 Australia, in association with the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), the TGA, state and territory health departments and medical device and pharmaceutical suppliers, GS1 Recallnet Healthcare went live on 1 April.
It is an online portal that will allow users to create recall and non-recall notifications that follow the uniform recall procedure for therapeutic goods guidelines, as well as submit recall notifications directly to the TGA for review and approval.

Update On Clinical Document Architecture And E-Health Records

Created on Wednesday, 09 April 2014
The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) and our partners are aware of potential issues citing security vulnerabilities which could affect eHealth systems worldwide. NEHTA, the Department of Health, and the PCEHR System Operator identified and considered these issues some time ago and as a result put in place actions to either negate or mitigate them.
The issues are around the use of the Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) standard, via style sheets, and in particular the Health Level Seven International (HL7) supplied style sheets, and all deal with the potential for malicious content to be exposed through the clinical documents.

No more missed test results: Hospital tracking system a success

11th Apr 2014
A QUEENSLAND hospital system that raises the alarm if test results and x-rays are not viewed by a specific deadline has delivered perfect follow-ups of 27,354 records for 6855 patients over a 13-month period.
The system at Mater Mothers' Hospital in Brisbane scored a life-saving 100% in a University of New South Wales (UNSW) assessment.
"It is an unprecedented result," said Associate Professor Andrew Georgiou from the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, which is based at the university.

eHealth records up and running across district


April 12, 2014, 4 a.m.
GEOFFREY and Judith Smith feel more confident about travelling away now they have registered for a free eHealth Record.
They were among the patients of Boundary Road's Dubbo Family Doctors who took advantage of a visit by staff off the Western NSW Medicare Local (WML) yesterday.
The practice and WML joined forces to promote the secure and electronic record that brings together key patient information from sources such as general practices, hospitals, imaging centres, specialists and allied health practices.

A digitally-enabled health system

What will our healthcare system look like, once the full potential of the digital era is harnessed?
  • 26 March 2014
Australia's health system faces significant challenges including rising costs, an aging population, a rise in chronic diseases and fewer rural health workers. Treasury estimates even suggest that at current rates of growth, and without significant change, health expenditure will exceed the entire state and local government tax base by 2043. We need to look at new ways to make the health system work smarter. Digital technologies and health service innovation promise that.
This report A Digitally-enabled Health System looks at how the Australian health system can reduce costs and deliver quality care.
Some of the technology identified in the report includes telepresence robots taking rural health workers on city rounds, wireless ID wristbands monitoring patients in real time, mobile health apps assisting with at-home rehab and smart software that knows what patients will be turning up to emergency departments, 6-12 months in advance.

Data Role

Technology will be a key factor controlling the exponential rise of healthcare costs in Australia’s future, according to the newly-released CSIRO paper, A Digitally Enabled Health System. 
The paper was released during the Health-e-Nation 2014 Summit, and Dr David Hansen, who is CEO of the Australian e-Health Research Centre (AEHRC), a CSIRO and QLD government joint-venture, says that it will be a talking point that spurs future research collaborations.
“There’s been a lot of downloads of the document,” he says. “We have had serious numbers of hits on it.”

Security cases for EHR systems

Posted on April 8, 2014 by Grahame Grieve
Well, security is the flavor of the week. And one thing we can say for sure is that many application authors and many healthcare users do not care about security on the grounds that malicious behaviour is not expected behaviour. One example that sticks in my mind is one of the major teaching hospitals in Australia that constantly had a few keys on the keyboard wear out early: the doctors had discovered that the password “963.” was valid, and could be entered by running your finger down the numeric keypad, so they all used this password.
So here’s some examples of real malicious behaviour:
Retrospectively Altering Patient Notes
A Queensland-based GP retrospectively changed his notes to falsely claim that a patient refused to go to hospital – then submitted those notes as evidence in an inquest, has been found to have committed professional misconduct and been suspended from practising medicine for 12 months including six months plus another six if he breached conditions within three years – and banned him from conducting most surgical procedures except under supervision for at least a year.

3D printing a new face, or liver, isn't that far off

Surgeons see a day when skin, organs and bones will all be printed
Sixty years from now, we'll look back on today's 3D-printed tissue and organ technology and think it's as primitive as the iron lung seems to us now.
Six decades out, replacing a liver or a kidney will likely be a routine procedure that involves harvesting some patients cells, growing them and then printing them across artificial scaffolding.
Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, spoke at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York about where the technology is today, and what hurdles it still must overcome.

Bionic revolution to ‘keep us active well into old age’

  • Hannah Devlin
  • The Times
  • April 07, 2014 9:30AM
BIONIC limbs and 3-D printed organs will keep people in good enough shape to play tennis beyond the age of 100, one of Britain's leading materials scientists has predicted.
Professor Mark Miodownik, of University College London, believes that rapid progress in biomedical engineering will transform old age by allowing people to "upgrade" failing body parts such as kidneys, livers and bones.
"The difference between animate and inanimate materials is getting more blurred and the body is going to become much more bionic," he said. He envisages the transformations to be as subtle as today's dental fillings rather than a case of people morphing into Robocop-style cyborgs.

Doctors' robot reduces spine surgery risk

  • April 09, 2014 10:15AM
  Clifford Fram, AAP National Medical Writer
SURGEONS have been using GPS-based devices for some time, but a Sydney operating theatre has been fitted with the medical equivalent of park-assist.
It's a leap forward, says neurosurgeon Dr Jonathon Ball, who is using the new robotic system to make his already exacting spine operations more precise.
Apart from reducing risk and improving accuracy, the Israeli-designed Renaissance guidance system improves recovery time and reduces pain.

Jawbone’s UP24 bracelet raises the bar on health goals

IT’S a year since I reviewed Jawbone’s UP health bracelet. It measures your steps and sleeping patterns, and vibrates to wake you when it detects you in light sleep around alarm time.
Now Jawbone has released the UP24. It remains a rubber bracelet that fits snugly on your wrist, it’s water resistant and it still lacks a display. That has not been a big issue with the UP, which seeks to help you manage your activity habits rather than offer instant performance data.
There is one major change: the UP24 syncs to your smartphone wirelessly via Bluetooth 4. The old UP required you plug the end into a smartphone to upload its data. The UP24 syncs data about every 20 minutes to the UP app.

Push for GP software to default to generics

9th Apr 2014
AN INFLUENTIAL political think tank wants to reduce the influence of brands on GP prescribing and referrals for diagnostic testing as part of a drive to cut costs for patients.
In a submission to the Senate enquiry into out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare, the Australian Institute (AI) proposed two measures to reduce the estimated $1.3-$1.7 billion patients spent on GP visits plus brand premiums on medications and diagnostic testing in 2012–13.
It also recommended an update of the 2008 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey on the negative impact of costs on access to health services before any decision was made to charge a standard co-payment for GP visits.

Case study: security vulnerabilities in C-CDA display

For background, see my previous blog post describing the details of three security vulnerabilities in C-CDA Display using HL7′s CDA.xsl.
Last month I discovered a set of security vulnerabilities in a well-known commercial EHR product that I’ll pseudonymously call “Friendly Web EHR”. Here’s the story…

The story: discovery and reporting

I was poking around my account in Friendly Web EHR, examining MU2 features like C-CDA display and Direct messaging. I used the “document upload” feature to upload some C-CDAs from SMART’s Sample C-CDA Repository. At the time, I was curious about the user experience. (Specifically, I was bemoaning how clunky the standard XSLT-based C-CDA rendering looks.) I wondered how the C-CDA viewer was embedded into the EHR. Was it by direct DOM insertion? Inline frames? I opened up Chrome Developer Tools to take a look.

Tech-Savvy Australian seniors want digital tools to manage health, according to Accenture survey

SYDNEY, Australia; 08 April 2014 – Driven by increasing healthcare demand from Australia’s aging population, a recent survey from Accenture (NYSE:ACN) found a growing number of tech-savvy seniors (63 per cent) are seeking digital options for managing their health.
The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that Internet participation has nearly doubled among Australia’s growing population of seniors since 2003, showing 41 per cent of older citizens are active online users.  Although roughly three-quarters (77 per cent) of seniors surveyed by Accenture say that online access to their health information is important, only 17 per cent say they can currently access their records. 
“While prior generations were commonly more resistant to technology, the explosive growth of digital tools are enabling more options for seniors to remain connected and manage many areas of their lives from home,” said Leigh Donoghue, managing director of Accenture’s health business in Australia.  “Older Australian’s are increasingly online, and just as they turn to the Internet for banking, shopping and entertainment, they also expect to be able to manage certain aspects of their healthcare services virtually.”

Suspension of GP Super Clinics program the right move for general practice

9 April 2014
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcomes the Federal Government’s plans to suspend any further expansion of the GP Super Clinics program, detailed in media reports yesterday.
The $650 million GP Super Clinic program was implemented by the previous Government as a strategy to build a stronger primary healthcare system, with the announcement yesterday set to re-coup some of the costs of the controversial program.
The revoked funding, allocated for the development of Super Clinics in Darwin, Rockingham and Brisbane is set to save the Government around $25 million.

Do robots have a role in dementia care?

10 April, 2014 Kate Aubusson
From Alien to Terminator, Blade Runner to The Matrix — science fiction has long taught us never to trust robots, androids or cyborgs.
But surely even Sigourney Weaver would be won over by Paro, a cuddly robotic baby seal designed to improve quality of life in dementia.
Researchers hope the $9000 mechanised harp seal will ease agitation among elderly patients and reduce the need for restraints in aged care facilities.

Coalition orders ‘technology mix’ to officially replace Labor’s NBN plan

THE Abbott government has officially repealed the blueprints issued under the Labor government to build the National Broadband Network using fibre-to-the premise technology.
It has issued new instructions to the NBN Co to use a variety of new and existing broadband technologies to save money and time on the $41 billion project.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann last night handed down a new statement of expectations to the board of NBN Co to lock in the government’s “optimised multi-technology mix”.

GOLDMAN: These 7 Tech Trends Are Changing The World

Mamta Badkar Apr 9, 2014, 7:07 AM
Goldman Sachs has a cool feature on its website titled “25 Ways We Saw The World Change,” which comes from the bank’s 2013 annual report.
The list includes seven “concurrent revolutions within the technology space.” Disruptive technology is having a huge impact on global businesses and the economy that we can’t ignore.
We’ve highlighted the seven key tech trends they think are about to impact the global economy.

Australian internet speeding up

Date April 8, 2014 - 3:34PM

Paddy Wood

Australian internet is speeding up and people are downloading more than ever before, new figures show.
The number of Australians accessing download speeds of 24 megabits-per-second (Mbps) passed 2 million for the first time in the three months to December, according to the Bureau of Statistics.
That's an increase of about 27 per cent on the number of people accessing the fastest category of internet service since the same period in 2012.

How to protect yourself from the 'Heartbleed' bug

A new security bug means that people all across the Web are vulnerable to having their passwords and other sensitive data stolen. Here's what consumers can do to protect themselves.
A major new security vulnerability dubbed Heartbleed was disclosed Monday night with severe implications for the entire Web. The bug can scrape a server's memory, where sensitive user data is stored, including private data such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers.
It's an extremely serious issue, affecting some 500,000 servers, according to Netcraft, an Internet research firm. Here's what you can do to make sure your information is protected, according to security experts contacted by CNET