Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 14 June, 2011.

Here are a few I have come across this week.

Note: Each link is followed by a title and a paragraph or two. 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

Another blog covers the main issue of the week - the end of the Consultation Process on the PCEHR.

This week we have also seen some announcements on Medicare Locals.

Here are three links:


First 15 Medicare Locals announced

The first 15 Medicare Locals have been announced (see link), and four more will be announced within a week for Victoria when boundaries are agreed on.

Health minister Nicola Roxon has released the list of the first wave of Medicare Locals, which will include four in NSW, five for Queensland, two each for South Australia and WA, and single Medicare Locals for Tasmania and the ACT. The minister has also revealed the final boundaries and catchments for all Medicare Locals that will see more of the bodies delivered for NSW and WA.



DoHA finalises first tranche of Medicare Locals

The first 15 organisations have been announced with another four to be announced within the week

The Federal Department of Health and Ageing has finalised the first raft of organisations to become Australia’s Medicare Locals from 1 July 2011, releasing the first 15 organisations to take part in the project.

19 organisations have been selected to participate in the $416.8 million project, part of the Gillard Government’s National Health Reform, which aims to establish primary healthcare organisations across Australia.


This link points to a just wonderful cartoon which summarises the AMA’s view on the Medicare Locals:


AMA WA launches campaign against Medicare Locals

The AMA in Western Australia has launched a major campaign against Medicare Locals, reported to be costing $100,000.

In the same week that the government announced the first 15 Medicare Locals, the doctor’s group says it is preparing the campaign which will include newspapers ads and posters in GP surgeries as well as leaflets mailed out to Federal politicians.

A cartoon showing an empty space behind the sign for Medicare Locals has already appeared in the AMA magazines across Australia.

AMA WA says the campaign comes after its own survey showed 90% of GPs were concerned about the plans.


I have been struggling with just what exactly Medicare Locals actually are for a while now:

See here:


The cartoon rather catches my concern I have to say. I still can’t figure out what these entities will do and achieve - given the small sum being invested in the initiative. We will just have to wait and see I guess - but some clarity on what they will do and evidence on how well this approach works would really help, me at least.

The other major news this week are the announcements on Telehealth. I plan some commentary on this at some point later in the week as well.

For the latest on Medicare Locals the following report is hardly re-assuring:

Medicare Locals rollout comes under fire

14th Jun 2011

Byron Kaye

THE Medicare Locals rollout has already been branded “chaos”, with delays on the announcement of some Medicare Locals while boundaries are redrawn and indications the transition for divisions could take years.

The rollout comes as representatives of all 111 general practice divisions are preparing to decide the future of the AGPN. Divisions will vote on changes to the AGPN’s constitution that would extend its overseeing powers – currently restricted to divisions – to Medicare Locals.

An AGPN extraordinary general meeting was to be held in Brisbane tomorrow to vote on the issue, however this has been postponed due to the disruption in air services caused by the Chilean volcanic ash cloud.

If the vote succeeds – which MO understands would require the support from 75% of divisions – it will bolster the AGPN’s case to become the intermediary body between the Federal Government and Medicare Locals once divisions are officially retired in mid-2012.

Meanwhile, last week’s announcement of the first 15 MLs was marred by the renewed criticism of the initiative.

Despite the looming 1 July launch date, the Federal Government has further delayed naming the first four Victorian MLs. They are expected to be announced this week pending redrawn geographical boundaries.

In WA, two of the state’s six MLs have also unexpectedly split in two, and in NSW, three Sydney-based divisions who were to form one ML have now been permanently separated after disagreements during the tendering process.

The last-minute changes have provided the AMA with ammunition for its latest attack on the $416 million ML program, which has been spearheaded by the WA chapter.

AMA WA has launched a $100,000 advertising and poster campaign slamming the new bodies, while the federal body has written to all successful ML tenderers seeking assurances the new MLs will have adequate GP representation and will not engage in fundholding for the provision of GP or other specialist services.

Lots more here:



See separate blog for PCEHR Roundup.



Govt couples telehealth rebates with $6000 set-up payment

6th Jun 2011

Mark O’Brien

THE Government will soon pay GPs $6000 to set up video-conferencing equipment, and another $40 each time they assist during a patient's telehealth session with a consulting specialist.

The incentive payments will be available from 1 July for practitioners who attend the telehealth consultation at the patient end, when the consultation takes place outside the "inner-metropolitan" centres or in a residential aged care facility or an Aboriginal medical service.

RACGP telehealth standards working group member Dr Nathan Pinskier said while it was encouraging to see telehealth being given priority, there were a number of issues for GPs to consider before "jumping in".



Specialists paid to embrace telehealth

Medicare rebates for telehealth services will begin on 1 July

  • AAP (AAP)
  • 06 June, 2011 14:48

Medical specialists who provide videolink consultations to patients in remote areas will be paid a 50 per cent bonus in an effort to encourage them to adopt the new technology.

Under Labor's $620 million telehealth initiative both city specialists and any healthcare worker physically with the patient will receive additional Medicare rebates.

Federal health minister Nicola Roxon said GPs, nurses, midwives and Aboriginal health workers who sit with patients during their video consultation will receive their usual Medicare fee plus an extra 35 per cent.



Telehealth rebates: first in, best dressed

From July 1, doctors can receive $6,000 if they start using video-conferencing equipment to provide at least one teleheath service in the next year.

But this amount will almost have halved by 2014, as the incentives fall to $4,800 in 2012-13, $3,900 in 2013-14 and $3,300 in 2014-15.

In addition, doctors will receive an additional $22 in the next year if they bulk-bill which will fall to $11 by 2014.



Health to review casualty software

Julie Robotham

June 8, 2011

NSW Health has ordered an urgent review of its loathed emergency department computer system to determine whether it is fit to remain a key part of the move towards electronic health records.

The consultants Deloitte will report to the Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, by early next month after a two-month review of the FirstNet system.

The review will include consultation with the University of Sydney information technology academic Jon Patrick, who in March blew into the open the concerns of clinicians when he compiled an analysis that charged the software was endangering patients by allowing test results to be wrongly assigned.



Medicare monitors celebrities' records

  • Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • June 08, 2011 6:25PM

MEDICARE provides special protection for records belonging to celebrities, politicians and people mentioned in the press, with files flagged to deter staff looking up information about high-profile people, the agency says.

"Medicare does monitor celebrities (records)," chief financial officer Darren Box told Senate estimates last week.

"As to access to well-known celebrities, politicians, people of note, even people in the media – there are flags on them and if their records are accessed inappropriately that is detected and action is taken," Mr Box said.

Medicare's deputy chief executive for IT infrastructure, John Wadeson, said the agency said Medicare could "track any action on any record" and kept logs of information being accessed electronically.



Hospital watchdog toothless: doctors

Julia Medew

June 9, 2011

DOCTORS are calling for changes to the way a new hospital performance watchdog will work because of fears the data will be massaged to make it look better before it's reported to the public.

Under an agreement struck between the Commonwealth and state governments this week, a new $118 million National Health Performance Authority will be created to monitor, assess and report on the performance of hospitals and health networks, giving state governments 45 days' notice of the results before they are released to the public.

After the agreement was announced on Tuesday at a meeting of health ministers in Melbourne, West Australian Health Minister Kim Hames said state governments would be able to use the time to discuss the results with health services, check their accuracy and seek explanations, if necessary.



DbMotion 'flies in the troops'

ISRAELI electronic health records outfit dbMotion has set up a base in Australia, citing "enormous growth potential" buoyed by the government's $467 million Personally Controlled E-Health Records system.

The company has forged local partnerships with CSC, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Allscripts to tackle the e-health market, dbMotion Asia-Pacific vice-president Ilan Freedman said.

It caters to a variety of customers including the Israeli government and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, which is also an investor.



Press Releases

June 02, 2011

dbMotion Increases Presence and Business Activities Throughout Australia

Connected Healthcare leader positions itself to lead the drive for
Australian healthcare information integration.

Sydney, Australia and Tel Aviv, Israel, June 2, 2011 — dbMotion, an innovative provider of connected healthcare solutions, today announced its increased interest and consequent investment in the Australian Healthcare IT market.

“Over the last year we have experienced growing interest from Australian healthcare organisations, that are now actively seeking solutions that connect disparate systems to improve patient experiences and outcomes,” said Ilan Freedman, dbMotion’s Vice President Asia-Pacific. “This is happening across the market and has recently been illustrated by the Australian Federal Government launching the procurement of the PCEHR Solution”.



Cabrini doctors more mobile with new iPad app

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 - iSOFT Group

A new iPad app is enabling doctors at Cabrini Health in Melbourne instant access to patient results and critical information at their fingertips, anytime and anywhere, inside or outside the hospital, using a new application by eHealth engineer iSOFT.

In early May 2011, more than 50 doctors began using the purpose-designed interactive iSOFT Mobility Suite to view and update their patients’ clinical and administrative information including patient notes, X-rays, scans and blood test results.

The first hospital in Australia to use the iSOFT Mobility Suite, Cabrini’s clinicians have embraced the new technology specifically designed for the iPad touch screen environment.



Court sets iSoft 'exit' fees, splits investors

By Luke Hopewell, ZDNet.com.au on June 9th, 2011

As legal eagles circle the iSoft/CSC buyout deal, a judge has today revealed what iSoft has to pay CSC if it decides it's found a better offer.

CSC announced its intention to acquire iSoft in April for $0.17 per share, a proposal that drew the ire of former executive chairman Gary Cohen, who believed that he could find a better offer for the company, and sought to block the acquisition in the courts.

Justice Arthur Emmett told the NSW Federal Court today that iSoft can expect to cough up roughly one per cent of the total acquisition value — or $1.82 million — if the software company's board finds and signs a superior takeover offer than CSC.



GP designs memory aid for smartphones

7th Jun 2011

Mark O’Brien

MODERN medicos are increasingly turning to smartphone applications to help with patient care, but NSW GP Dr Mike Birrell has taken that one step further by designing his own.

A GP for 30 years, Dr Birrell has worked extensively in aged care and used some extra time while he was laid up with an ankle injury last year to devise the MemoryMate application for the iPhone.

The application includes a medication alarm, an easy-to-use planner, a memo device to keep verbal or written thoughts, and a demographic file for personal details.



‘Dismal’: Senate blasts AHPRA’s role in national registration

6th Jun 2011

Mark O’Brien

AHPRA's handling of the national registration process was a "dismal example of policy implementation and public administration", a Senate report has found, and the body should apologise to all doctors who were inadvertently deregistered because of its mistakes.

The apology was just one of 10 recommendations put forward by the Senate committee that conducted the inquiry into the administration of health practitioner registration by AHPRA.

The committee recommended that any doctor left unable to work because of an inadvertent lapse in their registration should be reimbursed by AHPRA, and the Government should take steps to make the body more accountable for its actions.



Warning on breast scans

Julia Medew

June 9, 2011

WOMEN are being urged to avoid unproven breast scans offered as alternatives to mammograms, because the scans may be putting lives at risk.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said yesterday that it was investigating clinics offering unproven breast screening services, to ensure they were not engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct under the Competition and Consumer Act.

The investigation follows complaints from cancer specialists that women may believe some new services offered by untrained people are as effective as mammography at detecting cancer. The unproven services include electrical impedance, digital infrared thermal imaging, thermal radiometry and computerised/mechanical breast imaging.



SA nurses turn the tables on work mobiles

By Josh Taylor, ZDNet.com.au on June 9th, 2011

Four years ago, Royal District Nursing Service South Australia (RDNS SA) had to force its older workforce to use mobile devices to manage their nursing workload out in the field, but now employees have become believers, even asking for the interface to look more like what they want, according to CIO Jodie Rugless.

RDNS has approximately 650 employees that drive across South Australia to service 6500 clients. The average age of the workforce is 47, it's predominantly female and about 90 per cent had never used a computer before RDNS SA decided to go mobile, Rugless said at an Optus Business lunch in Sydney yesterday.

"Implementation was a challenge," she said. "Now, about 85 per cent of our workforce have immediate access to all the health care information they need to provide care. They do things like manage visit schedules, record their activity [and] this gives us great control over their security, we know where they are, we know they're safe."



Outback towns will benefit most from NBN

Fast broadband will enable quick access to mail, food supplies and healthcare

  • AAP (AAP)
  • 07 June, 2011 07:40

In outback Queensland towns where mail and food supplies take weeks to arrive, fast speed broadband cannot come soon enough.

The high-speed internet will become the lifeblood of towns like Birdsville and Bedourie, Diamantina Shire chief executive Scott Mason says.

It will boost economic growth, education and healthcare.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) will deliver faster satellite broadband, but the council is planning to put its own money up to get fibre optic links for the region.

Birdsville and Bedourie have a combined population of 260 and doctors and medical specialists visit every few weeks or months.



Making way for the virtual cadaver

Jim O'Rourke

June 12, 2011

HUNDREDS of Australians bequeath their bodies to science each year to be used by university medical schools in anatomy courses.

The embalmed cadavers are stored in a refrigerator before being dissected by groups of students. Some are prosected - cut into sections in advance - by experts so students can study particular body parts, organs and tissues.

But universities are increasingly using high-tech, 3D computer simulations or synthetic cadavers in their anatomy classes to save money. It costs about $6000 to retrieve, preserve and store a body.

As well as full synthetic human bodies, universities can buy lifelike body parts including slabs of synthetic skin, a loop of large intestine or a stomach for their students to dissect and examine.



Qld Health inks deal with Allocate Software

The "multi-million dollar deal" will provide a new staffing management service

Queensland Health has signed a contract with Allocate Software for the implementation of a staffing management service in the aim to ease deployment of temporary staff across the state.

The “multi-million dollar” deal is part of the department’s ‘Nurse on Q’ service which is designed to make the process of hiring and managing temporary staff more efficient.

The contract, awarded by the Office of the Chief Nursing Officer, will provide the technology in an attempt to overcome current challenges involved in operating complex, multidisciplinary teams across a large geographical area.



Sci-fi health scanner would help consumers

10th Jun 2011

Linda McSweeny

STAR Trek aficionados will know Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy used a tricorder to diagnose afflictions, but it’s been suggested patients could use such a device to triage themselves.

The non-profit X PRIZE Foundation in the US is offering a prize of $10 million to develop a handheld scanning device for quick diagnosis.

The prize will be awarded to whoever can invent a tricorder that can diagnose patients “better than or equal to a panel of board-certified physicians”, collaborator Qualcomm Inc said in a statement.



Piercing the fog around mobile phones and cancer

Tara Parker-Pope

June 7, 2011 - 12:54PM

The debate about mobile phone safety was reignited yet again last week when a panel of the World Heath Organisation declared that it was "possible" the phones could cause cancer.

This is the first time a major health organisation has suggested such a link, and it was promptly disputed by many scientists, who have been saying for years that there is scant evidence mobile phones cause cancer and that it is biologically implausible to think they could.

So what do we really know about mobile phones and health? Here are some answers to common questions about the issue.



10 things to know about the move to IPv6

The depletion of IPv4 addresses is turning the spotlight to the Internet's numbering system

The Internet has been rolling along for decades on the strength of IPv4 and its numbering system, which has supplied billions of addresses. As long as more addresses were available, few people thought about them. But the booming popularity of the Internet has finally soaked up nearly all those fresh numbers: In February, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) allocated the last of its unused large blocks of IPv4 addresses to regional Internet registries. On Wednesday, World IPv6 Day will turn the new protocol on at hundreds of companies, agencies and universities for testing. Suddenly, IT administrators and consumers alike are starting to think more about IP addresses. Here are the answers to a few questions about the numbers that make the Internet work.




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