Again, in the last week, I have come across a few news items which are worth passing on.
First we have:
by James Riley
Monday, 13 July 2009
The battle lines are being drawn for the biggest privacy fight since Joe Hockey’s 2005 smartcard proposal, this time focused on Rudd Government plans for a unique citizen identifier number in the health sector.
There is nothing like a unique identifier number to heat the blood of privacy advocates everywhere: Bob Hawke found out with his Australia Card proposal; Joe Hockey got a taste through the ultimately doomed ‘Not Australia Card’ smartcard; and Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon may be about to learn just how loud the privacy lobby can get.
Roxon and her State counterparts announced plans for national consultations on the legislative framework for the “national healthcare identifier numbers” that will underpin Australia’s e-Health system.
Health is widely acknowledged as the biggest ICT hairball in Government – at any level. The potential savings that could be delivered through an electronic health system encompassing governments, healthcare providers, patients and healthcare centres are enormous.
I think we can be assured this will bubble on while ever the Government does not explain a great deal more about just what is planned, what is the business case supporting the proposal, what other options may exist and what the Privacy Impact assessments said regarding the proposal.
This was followed up here:
by James Riley
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Australian Government claims that an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI) would reduce avoidable deaths in the healthcare system has been dismissed by privacy advocates, who say poor records management was also a problem in eHealth.
In fact, the Australian Privacy Foundation says there is evidence that poorly implemented eHealth systems can actually increase mortality rates caused by patient mismatching. Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday indicated an IHI could reduce such deaths.
APF Health committee chair Juanita Fernando urged authorities to address the governance and management issues related to eHealth before considering the introduction of unique ID numbers.
“We have nothing against saving lives, but it (eHealth) can cost lives too,” Ms Fernando said. “Poorly implemented eHealth systems can cost lives, and that really needs to be recognised.”
“It is quite clear that there are benefits that eHealth can deliver. But there are definite costs too, and they need to be considered openly and questioned.”
Note also this:
July 14, 2009
THE movements of every Victorian student through the education system will be tracked by the State Government as part of a multimillion-dollar project that has sparked privacy concerns among parents, teachers and opposition parties.
From this week, thousands of students under the age of 25 will be given a unique student identification number, allowing the state Education Department to monitor them as they progress through primary school, secondary school, or vocational education and training.
Every student's number will be recorded within a central register, providing details such as the child's name, date of birth, sex, enrolment history, and movements between schools.
Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said the project — which is costing taxpayers more than $5 million — would help identify students at risk of dropping out, while ensuring the Government had accurate information on student movement and retention rates. But some fear the plan could result in serious privacy breaches if strict controls are not put in place.
"The question is, who gets access to the information and on what basis?" asked Australian Education Union branch president Mary Bluett.
The urge to number people by bureaucrats is certainly pretty strong!
Second we have:
Andrew Colley | July 14, 2009
INFORMATION and communication technology industry groups have welcomed the release today of the federal government's directions paper on the digital economy, but some say it is light on policy leadership.
The result of 12 months of collaboration with the industry, the paper, titled "Australia's Digital Economy: Future Direction", provides a snapshot of what the Labor government thinks a successful digital economy will look like and sets out the roles government and industry should play.
But industry groups say a major element is missing in its 104 pages.
Australian Information Industry Association chief executive Ian Birks said the paper did more to raise challenges facing the digital economy than identify means to address them. He said it lacked detail on measures of the new economy's success and specifics on what government expected from the ICT sector.
"The paper's not heavy with policies or initiatives -- that's clear. It's more of a discussion, but it does do quite a good job setting the scene and it does identify the issues that will need attention," he said.
An interesting report, however the health sector gets only a very brief mention. The only areas discussed seem to be the Bionic Eye and Remote ICU Care.
Third we have:
Karen Dearne | July 14, 2009
I a reshuffle at NSW Health, former chief information officer Mike Rillstone has been appointed acting chief executive of the Health Support Services arm for an initial six-month period.
The HSS was established last year as the delivery arm for NSW Health's share services program.
Former HSS chief executive John Roach has been appointed chief financial officer, NSW Health.
Meanwhile, former deputy chief information officer Craig Smith is acting CIO of the Strategic Information Management branch. Mr Rillstone would have a "very close working relationship" with Mr Smith and the SIM unit, a NSW Health spokeswoman said.
Late last year, special commissioner Peter Garling ordered a massive and urgent upgrade for the state's public hospital IT infrastructure, and the provision of electronic medical records for all patients.
This could be a good move as it gets out of the NSW Health Department the luddite, who all on his own, slowed e-Health in NSW down a very good deal. No names, no packdrill but insiders will know who I mean.
Fourth we have:
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has revealed details of its solution to prescription medication abuse.
Guild president Kos Sclavos told Pharmacy News that the issue could be "addressed overnight" if the Government agreed to implement the Guild's new program called ControlledDrugRx.
The program, based on technology developed for Project STOP, would provide real-time decision support for a pharmacist before dispensing opiates and other addictive pain relievers, as well as optional real-time checks for doctors before prescribing S8 drugs.
Health officials would also be able to access the data, allowing them to monitor health professionals and the patient's S8 records.
"Pharmacists would dispense as they do today and there would be mandatory reporting via this real-time monitoring system. This would make available to pharmacists immediate decision support whether to proceed with the dispensing. Pop up messages to pharmacists would signal if clinically appropriate," Mr Sclavos said.
Full article here:
This should be seen as part of an ongoing push on the part of the Pharmacy Guild to get more funding in the new remuneration agreement with Community Pharmacy. The e-Health aspects the Guild’s initiatives are not consistent with the National E-Health Strategy, and Government support of them should be seen as a sign of desperation to get something happening..messy and un-strategic though their plans may be.
I wonder when we are going to see the NHHRC final report?
Fifth we have:
14 July 2009 05:00 PM
Tasmania has gone to market for further e-health services in a continuation of its push to upgrade the health technology capabilities in its hospitals.
The newest request for tender looks for a clinical care system that will first be rolled out at the neo-natal and paediatric intensive care unit of the Royal Hobart Hospital, which has 14 beds and would have 70 users. Its estimated cost for acquisition and implementation is $500,000.
Yet this small implementation could be the start of a larger roll-out. "The department's long-term vision is for a single, state-wide system for critical care medicine that may be deployed to any relevant site within the Department of Health and Human Services," the tender documents said. The time scale for this to happen was five to 10 years.
The system will replace current manual systems with electronic recording of clinical information through direct entry, data collection from different hospital devices and analysis of health information. The system has to interface with other existing and future health systems in the state.
Lots more here:
It is good to see some apparent steady progress.
Sixth we have:
14 JULY 2009
Media release from Health Informatics New Zealand (HINZ)
The quest to develop a strategy for the sharing of electronic patient records Fisher & Paykel Clinical Education Centre, Auckland City Hospital 8.45 am Friday 24th July 2009
For the past year, Health Informatics New Zealand (HINZ) has been endeavouring to stimulate debate re the development of a national electronic health records strategy.
Development of a viable information sharing strategy is becoming more and more important to the New Zealand health sector. On one hand the pressure on the system to develop safe, reliable and easy to use mechanisms for sharing patient information is mounting.
On the other hand we are becoming more and more aware of the complexities and challenges of doing so.
It will be very interesting to see what outcomes emerge from this meeting.
Seventh we have:
Fran Foo | July 14, 2009
WHEN Michelle Downey decided to take a simple hearing test, little did she know it would save her from complete hearing loss.
While at her local shopping centre, the Brisbane mother of four chanced upon a mobile kiosk offering free hearing tests.
The test involved donning a headset and responding to a range of sounds and instructions.
"When you hear a buzz or a beep, you just touch the screen. It was very simple and straightforward and took less than 10 minutes," Ms Downey said.
This seems like a useful and sensible innovation which can certainly help people understand if they need further investigation and help.
Eighth we have:
July 13, 2009 - 8:14AM
Medical staff at the new Royal Children's Hospital are to wear radio tags to allow their movements to be tracked under a secret Victorian government plan.
But the plan has raised the ire of unions, who fear a new precedent for surveillance of employees across the workforce, and by RCH doctors, who have refused to wear the tags when the new hospital opens in 2011, The Age newspaper reports.
Documents it obtained show the control group for the $1 billion hospital reconstruction discussed in January last year a "comprehensive patient and staff radio frequency identification tracking system".
Much more here:
I think there would need to be a clear understanding of just what the valid reason for doing something like this was before it is likely to gain much acceptance. Hospitals seem to have kept track of their staff pretty well to date without things like this.
It seems the staff agree. See here:
July 13, 2009
Ninth we have:
Mitchell Bingemann | July 16, 2009
THE Rudd government's ambitious $43 billion national broadband network has taken its first baby-steps towards construction after the federal and Tasmanian governments released competitive tenders for the build in the island state.
Cutting the ribbon at the opening of the Basslink fibre optic cable in Tasmania, federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Premier of Tasmania David Bartlett said a memorandum of understanding had been signed between the respective governments and the state government-owned power utility, Aurora Energy to construct and operate the new fibre-to-the-home network.
A new company, tentatively titled TNBN Co, will be established to undertake the project, with the first sod of soil expected to be turned shortly, the government said. TNBN Co will be a subsidiary of NBN Co jointly owned by Aurora Energy which today issued an open competitive tender for the fibre optic cable needed to build the network.
We also have this:
Correspondents in Canberra | July 15, 2009
COMMUNICATIONS Minister Stephen Conroy has dismissed suggestions the government's planned national broadband network will cost more than its budget of $43 billion.
"I've not met anybody around Australia who has said look ... that's going to blow out in costs," Senator Conroy told ABC television when questioned about the prospect of a budget overrun.
And we also have this today:
Telstra help would boost broadband network, Conroy says
The Federal Government has acknowledged it needs Telstra's help to efficiently deliver its planned new National Broadband Network (NBN).
One has the feeling the overall NBN program is evolving to become something a bit different to what was initially announced.
Lastly the slightly more technical article for the week:
Google isn't saying how its new operating system will function, but the clues lie in its browser.
By Erica Naone
Soon after Google announced plans for its own operating system (OS), called Google Chrome OS, on Tuesday night, the Web giant clammed up about technical details, saying that the project is still at too early a stage. The first netbook devices running Chrome OS won't be released until the second half of 2010, so most users will have to wait until then to find out precisely how the software will work. But that doesn't mean there aren't hints out there already, and the biggest clues can be found in Google's Chrome browser, which the company says will be a key part of the new OS.
According to a post written by Sundar Pichai, a vice president of product management at Google, and Linus Upson, the company's engineering director, the open-source Chrome OS will consist of a Linux kernel with the Google Chrome browser running on top inside an entirely new desktop environment.
The Chrome browser was released nine months ago and is Google's effort to reinvent the browser completely: it's designed from scratch with Web applications in mind and is meant to be the only application that a Web-savvy user needs on her computer.
In an interview in March, Darin Fisher, an engineer on the Google Chrome team, said that in early sessions, the engineers decided to "take a page out of the operating system book" when they built the browser. Notably, the Chrome team decided to treat the browser as a launchpad from which the user can start different Web applications. Each application operates independently so that if one crashes, it doesn't affect the others. OSes, Fisher said, had to take the same approach to allow a single application to crash without requiring a user to reboot the whole system. This change in browser design helps give Web applications the stability that desktop applications enjoy.
Much more here:
An interesting article explaining, possibly, just where Google is going!
More next week.