Again, in the last week, I have come across a few reports and news items which are worth passing on.
These include first:
Mike Steketee, National affairs editor | October 11, 2008
THE NSW Government has an explanation for why some public hospitals are failing to see most of their urgent patients on time -- it does not believe its own health figures.
According to the data, in January only 36 per cent of patients with an imminently life-threatening condition were seen within the required 10 minutes of arriving at the emergency department of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, in inner Sydney.
But the NSW Health Department says this figure and those for Westmead Hospital are wrong because of problems with collecting data, even though they are included in the performance indicators it publishes to enable people to compare hospitals.
Asked by The Weekend Australian why the Government had published incorrect figures, a spokesman for NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said it was important to publish the information for the sake of transparency.
"Although some of the data might reflect poorly on these hospitals, we are prepared to wear that while we try to fix the teething problems," he said.
The revelations add a bizarre twist to the string of claims about fudged figures on hospital performance in NSW and Victoria.
Mostly the allegations are that data is being massaged to meet performance benchmarks. But in this case, the NSW Government claims the figures understate the true situation.
State governments have responded to dissatisfaction with public hospitals by releasing data on their performances, available on health department websites.
According to former Victorian and NSW premier's department head Ken Baxter, whose consultancy prepared a report on the funding of public hospitals earlier this year, the figures, particularly in NSW, "are not worth the paper they were written on".
There were serious doubts about the veracity of the data fed into them from hospitals. Nor were they necessarily the best indicators of performance.
"For example, waiting times for elective surgery can be manipulated for what you want out of them," Mr Baxter said.
The report by TFG International, of which Mr Baxter is chairman, found hospital data was "inconsistent, patchy and not readily comparable on a state-by-state basis".
Although the states had spent more than $2billion on information technology and data collection systems, this money had "largely been wasted".
Much more here:
This is a very worrying report and goes to the question of just how well the funds for IT in hospitals has been spent – but more importantly just how well the investments have been managed. It seems a national audit of e-Health capability and data quality should be on the agenda sooner rather than later.
Second we have:
The Victorian roads authority has confirmed it sells information from its licence database to 190 organisations, but defended the practice as perfectly legal.
Dylan Bushell-Embling 07/10/2008 12:52:00
The Victorian roads authority, VicRoads, has admitted it sells personal information to 190 outside organisations, but has refused to name any of its customers.
The Herald Sun yesterday published the details of a secret deal, whereby companies such as Connex and Yarra Trams paid for special access to information from the VicRoads licence database.
Other coverage is here:
VicRoads cashes in on personal information
Article from Herald Sun
October 09, 2008 12:00am
VICROADS raked in $6.4 million in one year by selling the personal information on its licence and registration databases.
The Herald Sun can also reveal that Connex ticket inspectors use a verbal password for database access, a process described as "only 95 per cent secure".
VicRoads has admitted instances of inappropriate use of its databases by outside organisations.
Registration and licensing operations director Chris McNally confirmed VicRoads raised revenue through the databases.
"(This) goes towards offsetting the more than $100 million cost of running VicRoads' registration and licensing business," Mr McNally said.
Since the late 1990s, there had been a small number of incidents in relation to external access of the databases, Mr McNally said.
"One involved the inadvertent release of information to an external party and one involved the inappropriate disclosure of information," he said. "The person concerned in this case is no longer with the agency."
VicRoads now requires external agencies to provide a quarterly compliance report and an independent audit.
This is an absolute disgrace. Trade in personal identification information is quite unacceptable and in such a pathetically insecure way as this it is just dreadful. VicRoads is to be condemned – running a license system is core business for such an entity – not a cost to be offset!
Third we have:
Karen Dearne | October 07, 2008
case study | SA Heart Centres
CARDIOLOGISTS in South Australia have said goodbye to costly commercial broadband services by building a private high-speed microwave network to link their Adelaide clinics.
Dr Bill Heddle, chairman of SA Health Centres, says the practice was hampered by slow connections and he was unimpressed by the premiums charged for high-speed fixed-line links when the operation moved to electronic patient records and images.
"In the early days, we often had problems using dial-up broadband.
"The computer kept crashing and it took 20 minutes to log on," he says.
"In that time, you need to have seen at least one patient or you get behind on your appointments."
SA Heart Centres is Australia's largest cardiology group, with 17 specialists operating in six large clinics in suburban Adelaide, plus smaller clinics at Mt Gambier, Port Lincoln and in the Riverland.
"We looked for solutions to this big problem of being able to have reliable and rapid access to patient information wherever we were seeing them," Heddle says.
This story makes one wonder if the National Broadband Network – as planned – will be fast enough in 2-3 years when it finally gets built. I think 100 Mbs should be the minimum for the NBN at the end-user level.
Fourth we have:
Karen Dearne | October 07, 2008
SPECIAL Minister of State John Faulkner has proposed a set of unified privacy principles and protections for credit reporting and health information, following a revamp of the Privacy Act.
Senator Faulkner will also tackle abuses of data capture and usage made possible by small, cheap and versatile devices that record and transfer sound, images and data.
"Privacy is not about what we voluntarily - however unwisely - disclose of ourselves," he told a symposium at the University of NSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre last week.
"Privacy is our right to make that decision for ourselves.
"But new developments, whether it be the internet, the camera-phone, radio-frequency ID tags or CCTV in public places, have made it incredibly easy for others to make that decision for us."
This is good – as it seems the Senator Faulkner ‘gets it’. He is dead right – the decision about where out information goes is the one that matters and is what most worries people about e-Health proposals.
There is also good coverage here:
Fifth we have:
October 6, 2008 - 7:52PM
With identity fraud becoming the nation's fastest-growing crime, Crime Stoppers has urged Australians to stop throwing personal information into rubbish bins.
Identity fraud has claimed half-a-million victims in the last 12 months at an estimated cost of $1 billion to the national economy, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
And professional women in their 20s and 30s are most at risk.
Despite the danger, a Newspoll survey shows nearly 70 per cent of people throw away bank and credit card statements, social security and tax file number details, utility bills and other personal information.
Ahead of national identity fraud awareness week, Crime Stoppers has urged Australians to shred their statements and personal information, as well as digital information held on CDs, before throwing it away.
The relevance of this report for the e-Health Domain relates to the personal identity systems and identifiers planned by NEHTA. We need to be sure these credentials are managed in such a way that they have no value to the criminal identity fraudsters. As I see it the only way this can be achieved is by having major penalties for the use of NEHTA identifiers as part of the information that can be used to establish identity for any purpose other than the expected healthcare roles. I know this has been mooted but I would like to see the actual law enacted before becoming involved in these schemes.
More information here:
October 7, 2008
WANT to buy enough information about a stranger's credit card to steal their money? All it takes is one email and a transfer of funds through Western Union.
The Herald found it was remarkably easy to unearth the online locations where hackers conduct a global trade in stolen credit card information.
If you want the data from a standard Australian credit card, it will cost you just $US1.50 ($1.80). Rather rob from a gold card holder? That'll be $2.50, thanks.
For accounts in Britain and the United States, the salesmen claim even to be able to bypass some of the latest anti-fraud protection, including Verified by Visa. And if your needs are great, bulk deals are available.
Full investigative article is here:
Last we have the slightly more technical article for the week:
The fight over OOXML and ODF seems to have taken another twist as the bodies continue to pile up in their wake.
Carl Jongsma 08/10/2008 12:55:00
For the last several months Microsoft has been pushing for their Office Open XML (OOXML) office suite file specification to be accepted as an international standard by ISO, presumably to help them gain traction for future government contracts (look, this file specification is an ISO standard, it must be good).
As far as ISO/IEC DIS 29500 is concerned, it continues its steady progress towards standardship, however it seems that Microsoft's push towards this goal hasn't been without its bodycount. While the ISO site lists 29500 as a deleted standard, complementary reporting shows the process is still ongoing and OOXML will soon become ISO/IEC IS 29500.
In an ideal world, standards bodies would be incorruptible and lead to the publication and adoption of consistent standards across the user communities. Anyone who has followed the OOXML progress through ISO would think otherwise. The ongoing stoush regarding Microsoft's effort to get the ODF-killer that has yet to be properly implemented through the standards body has claimed some high profile casualties, with the national Standards body of Norway effectively self-destructing after 13 of 23 members of the technical committee resigned in disgust.
It is amazing that we see this sort of goings on in international standardisation. There needs to be trust in these international processes if the benefits are to be achieved. Having Microsoft apparently distorting processes like this – as seems to be the case – is really not good news at all.
More information is here:
Over half of Norway's ISO body, Standard Norway, have resigned over the country's approval for OOXML, citing Microsoft influence.
John E. Dunn (Techworld) 07/10/2008 10:03:00
Full article here:
Another minor bit of news for Win XP users.
New timeline will make it possible for users to purchase XP-powered PCs through next July, just months before Microsoft plans to roll out Windows 7.
Gregg Keizer (Computerworld (US)) 07/10/2008 08:03:00
See article here:
Finally – a small comment on the Financial Crisis – If our banks are so safe why not a time limited guarantee on all bank deposits and a guarantee of interbank cash flows so commerce can work – at least in Australia as seems to be happening all over the advanced world?
More next week.