Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 31st October, 2011.

Here are a few I have come across this week.
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

It seems the Annual Report Season has struck with all sorts of reports covering the period to June 30, 2011 appearing on various sites.
Additionally today is the day for sign off of a first round of specifications from the ‘tiger teams’. It will be interesting to see what has been achieved.
Other than that we have continuing fall out from a major information breach at State Super which reminds us all how vulnerable large scale data stores can be.
Last we have a giant of the Artificial Intelligence world pass away. All in all an active and interesting week.

E-health 'tiger teams' yet to meet

  • by: Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 25, 2011 3:46PM
THE so-called tiger teams expected to draft and complete new technical specifications for the $500 million personally controlled e-health system by November 30 are yet to hold their first meetings.
The National e-Health Transition Authority established the plan to fast-track delivery of critical standards needed for the PCEHR infrastructure build and by the lead implementation sites, ahead of next year's July 1 start date.
Health department chief executive Paul Madden has told The Australian the tiger teams are confident they can sign-off the first round of specs "as ready to build" by October 31, and have the rest finalised and reviewed by the end of next month.

Medicare electronic refunds take off

QUEUES for cash refunds are shorter at Medicare offices, with more claims being lodged and paid electronically.
Only 8 per cent of patients visited a service centre for a refund during the 2010-11 financial year and a mere 0.9 per cent of claims were settled by cheque, down from 10pc and 1.1pc respectively the previous year.

Instead, services paid via electronic funds transfer - where Medicare payments are made direct to a customer's bank account - rose to 4.2pc, or 13.5 million transactions - from 3.9pc a year earlier.

Telehealth MBS claims revealed

There have been 2,275 MBS items claimed for videoconferencing since July 1, with more than two thirds of the consultations being in GP practices in rural areas.
Also, about 12% were in remote areas involving psychiatric attendances, specialist consultations and a smaller number of neurosurgery and obstetric attendances, the Senate heard last week.
According to the Senate hearing, 19% of the services were in RA1, inner and outer metropolitan areas; 35% in RA2; and 34% in RA3.

New player in national e-health space

THE government-owned National Health Call Centre Network is positioning itself as a lead player in Australia's e-health space through the provision of software-based medical triage and health information services delivered over the web or by phone.
With an eye to the federal government's e-health program, the NHCCN is developing a "centralised, comprehensive and reliable" online directory of healthcare providers.
"The directory is designed to provide a searchable and up-to-date listing of medical centres, pharmacies, dental services, hospitals and community health services, giving people better information on local resources," its annual report said.
"This is a national priority project and is closely linked with the e-health agenda."

Doctors offered fee to undertake records survey

DOCTORS are being offered $80 to respond to a federal survey about electronic health records.
That amount is more than Medicare pays them to see a patient for up to 20 minutes ($34.90) and more than they get for a complex consultation that lasts longer than 20 minutes ($67.65).
Australian Medical Association state president Peter Sharley agreed the Government's survey payments were more generous than its Medicare rebates. "That's the only way you're ever going to get a GP to do it (the survey) because they are working long hours," he said.

Poor uptake for Healthcare Identifiers

  • by: Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 28, 2011 5:00AM
THE largely idle $90 million Healthcare Identifier service cost $9.23m to run last year, $4.6m less than expected due to lack of interest from healthcare providers.
As operator of the service, Medicare has issued its maiden annual report, revealing there was very little activity in the year after its launch by Health Minister Nicola Roxon on July 1, 2010.
"Based on the agreed demand plan with the National e-Health Transition Authority, the original forecast cost was $13.8m," the report says.

Your thoughts on the good and bad of eHealth in primary health care?

, by Melissa Sweet
What are the strengths and limitations of eHealth technologies in primary health care?
Olga Anikeeva at the Primary Health Care Research and Information Service is drafting a “research round-up”  about the use of eHealth technologies such as electronic health records, decision support systems and e-prescribing software by primary health care providers in Australia.
If you’ve an interest or expertise in the area, and can spare a few minutes – please have a look at her draft below and send your feedback by November 3 (contact details are at the bottom of the post).
eHealth aims to improve the quality and safety of Australia’s health system by introducing a more efficient way to collect and share information such as prescriptions and test results.1 The primary health care sector could benefit substantially from the widespread use of eHealth technologies.2 The National E-Health Transition Authority is currently working with numerous stakeholders, including GPs and allied health professionals to develop an eHealth uptake plan.2 This RESEARCH ROUND up focuses on the use of eHealth technologies in primary health care, by exploring the benefits and current limitations of a number of eHealth tools.

Telstra improves its bedside manner

Telstra has won a deal expected to be worth $36.7 million over the next eight years to install more than 3,500 computers at the bedside in South Australian hospitals and also provide patients with access to a range of entertainment services including Foxtel/Austar, a dedicated phone line and filtered internet access.
While the devices are able to be used for patient entertainment their other – arguably more important - use will be to provide health professionals with access to clinical and patient information at the bedside. The devices will also be able to be used to provide access to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record once that is rolled out from July next year.

Nehta annual report shows operating deficit

  • by: Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 28, 2011 3:37PM
THE National e-Health Transition Authority had an operating deficit of $9 million during the last financial year, but reports a $32.9m surplus on total revenues of $123.6m.
The surplus was attributable to prepayments for elements of its Council of Australian Governments funded work program scheduled for the current year.
Nehta is holding $10m in revenue received but not yet earned, $5.8m in payments for vendors not yet made, and separate program funding of $1.2m received but not yet earned.
Other expenses and commitments not yet incurred include the National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) design and build at $6.5m, a Healthcare Identifier (HI) service cost of $4.8m plus a further $2.8m for HI implementations and advertising, and $10.7m in implementation support costs.

Seeking the e-health elixir

When the discussion turns to e-health Mukesh Haikerwal locks eyes – he rarely glances away but examines your reaction with diagnostic concentration. It’s no doubt a skill honed as a GP, but it is still slightly unnerving.
Government, its agencies, health departments and the IT sector may all on occasion try to stare him down but Haikerwal won’t blink in terms of what he wants from a national e-health programme. As the national clinical lead for Australia’s National E-health Transition Authority (Nehta) Haikerwal is determined that technology can completely reform Australia’s health sector and deliver improved, more sustainable services to Australians.
He has for years fought unsustainable status quos, ever since he was an uppity junior doctor in the UK railing against the long hours forced on young doctors. Today he’s 50 and a highly visible member of the establishment, a former president of the Australian Medical Association, an Officer of the Order of Australia, and was appointed chair of the World Medical Association in April.

Pay TV helps case for SA patient records

REVENUE from commercial pay TV and movie services will subsidise South Australia's new hospital digital patient record system unveiled today.
Launching the system, Health Minister John Hill said it was intended "to provide a clinical workstation for doctors and nurses and help standardise and improve clinical work practices across the whole health system".
Its establishment will see Telstra install about 3500 17-inch touchscreen bedside computers in 12 of the state's hospitals, through a joint investment with the South Australian government.
The state government has contributed $36.7 million to the system's roll-out, under an 8.5-year agreement with Telstra, following a tender process last year.

Victoria sets start-up costs for health catalogue

Auditor calls for development as soon as possible.

Health Purchasing Victoria expects to spend about $1.3 million to start building a common product catalogue for the state's public hospitals.
The start-up costs are laid out in a procurement report (pdf) by the Victorian Auditor-General.
"Initial software development and implementation is estimated at $600,000 with
$100,000 a year in licence fees," the agency told the auditor.
"Staffing costs for implementation and ongoing management are estimated at $600,000 in year one, rising to $950,000 per year from year three onwards.

Medibank Private's Health Solutions boosts revenue

MEDIBANK Private's new Health Solutions unit boosted its revenues to $258 million last year, up 53 per cent since its acquisition of software-based medical support online services provider, McKesson Asia Pacific, on July 1 last year.
The division helped the insurer attain a before-tax profit of $428m on total revenue of $4.7 billion.
Medibank managing director George Savvides said the purchase had enabled the expansion of its nurse and doctor triage services, preventive health programs and mental health services, delivered by phone or over the web.

Health secretary Jane Halton takes IBM Australia to task

  • by: Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 26, 2011 4:01PM
THE federal Health department's reliance on IBM as its ICT outsourced technology services provider is causing frustrations, with system changes over the weekend resulting in "a catastrophic failure".
In an email to all staff yesterday, secretary Jane Halton said "As you are no doubt painfully aware, changes made by IBM to the department's IT storage environment" caused major system outages that had "significantly affected everyone".
"Our own IT staff worked very hard with IBM on resolving the issue yesterday, overnight and continue today to attempt to fix the problem and restore the system as soon as possible," Ms Halton said in the email, leaked to news website Crikey.

Doctors deplore changes to funding for PET scans

Julia Medew
October 24, 2011
ACCESS to potentially life-saving cancer scans has become a lottery, with thousands of patients denied government funding for the most accurate imaging test available for most cancers.
Doctors have told the Herald that changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule in July have cut funding for thousands of people to have positron emission tomography scans, a highly valued test that detects cancer before it can be found with other medical imaging techniques. The scan, which creates two- and three-dimensional images, also helps doctors monitor treatment and check if cancer is becoming active again. In some cases, it can be the difference between life and death.
As of July, many patients with cervical cancer are no longer funded to receive the scan for restaging of their illness, while about half of all patients with lymphoma have been taken off the funding list. They are joined by patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumours who until July were funded to receive scans.

Martin Van Der Weyden: The robot invasion

24 October, 2011
THE ambiance of our hospitals is universally described as clinical, frequently impersonal and definitely dispiriting.
Inexorably caught up in the busyness of this medical microcosm, patients lose their identity in a form of reductionist verbal shorthand, becoming “the patient with CCF in bed 13 in Ward 3C”.
For the patients, even working out who is a doctor can be a complex exercise among a myriad of other health professionals. Couple this with the strict regimentation of ward activities and it is little wonder that hospitals, whose business is human welfare, are often accused of losing their humanity.

Super IT blunder risked $23m contract

Asher Moses
October 24, 2011 - 11:32AM
The federal government has been in daily contact with the company responsible for the First State Super security failure and has demanded immediate changes to its systems as the company revealed that three other superannuation funds it administers were also affected.
The security breach sparked panic in the government because Pillar Administration, which is responsible for the day-to-day operations of First State Super and other superannuation funds, is next month set to take over the super fund for federal politicians, police, ASIO spies, department heads and other federal public servants.
The federal government ordered an immediate independent IT review of Pillar's systems and says the $23 million contract won't begin until "remedial security enhancements" are implemented.

CTOs urge faster progress on e-health standards

By Jamie Yap , ZDNet Asia on October 27, 2011 
Technology leaders worldwide have called on the United Nations (U.N.) to step up progress on electronic health standards in order to achieve reliability and interoperability, which they said are crucial in enabling both patients and healthcare professionals to fully access and reap the benefits of e-health services and solutions.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the U.N. agency for information and communication technology, said in a statement earlier this week it met with 21 CTOs from leading ICT companies, all of whom have urged it to accelerate technical standardization work in the field of e-health and cooperate with other standard bodies to create secure, reliable and interoperable e-health services and solutions.

NBN Co chief defends 'gag' on wireless

Clancy Yeates
October 25, 2011
NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley has defended controversial agreements that stop Telstra and Optus pushing wireless services as alternatives to the network, saying the restrictions are in taxpayers' interests.
But Mr Quigley's support for what critics say are ''gag orders'' is at odds with comments from the competition watchdog, consumer groups, and the Productivity Commission.
As part of NBN Co's $11 billion deal with Telstra to shut down its fixed-wire network, Telstra is pledging not to promote wireless as an alternative to fixed-broadband for 20 years.
Optus, which is receiving $800 million to dismantle its cable network, has made a similar commitment for 15 years. The pledges have raised competition concerns, as wireless is likely to be the main competition with the NBN, a wholesale monopoly.

John McCarthy, one of the fathers of AI, dies at 84

McCarthy developed the LISP programming language and AI labs at MIT and Stanford
John McCarthy , one of the grandfathers of artificial intelligence, died Sunday. He was 84.
In 1958, while at MIT, McCarthy invented the programming language LISP, which has become the main language for artificial intelligence (AI) ( ) work. He also was one of the co-founders of the first artificial intelligence laboratory at MIT and the founder of the artificial intelligence laboratory at Stanford University.
Stanford University, where McCarthy was a professor emeritus of computer science, confirmed his death in a tweet Tuesday.

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