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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Health Department Secretary Feels the Heat of e-Health Inaction. About Time!

There was a Government sponsored conference on the National Broadband Network last week for 2 days.

The meeting web site is here:


You can catch up with all the action - in a landmark for Australian Government openness - here:


Links are there to audio and video of all the sessions.

There is a just wonderful report of one of the four e-Health sessions.

E-health future on NBN derailed by lack of basics

Ry Crozier | Dec 11, 2009 9:32 AM

Passions spill over at broadband futures forum.

Frustration at perceived delays in implementing a national e-health agenda boiled over at the Government’s broadband future forum yesterday where a discussion on NBN possibilities could not get past basic issues like funding availability.

In a session where imaginations were supposed to run wild and free on the e-health applications made possible by the National Broadband Network, the whiteboard and butcher’s paper went unused.

Dialogue instead took for granted applications made possible by the NBN, such as human genome mapping, as issues of financial sustainability and scalability of more basic e-health proposals currently on the table took centre stage.

That prompted at least two delegates - including a representative of the CSIRO e-Health Research Centre - to pass comments that they “thought the purpose of this session was to look into the future of what we could do with the NBN.

“We seem to be having a discussion on what the issues are today. We need to challenge ourselves a little bit more,” the representative said.

The observation drew support from some delegates and defensive responses from some of the assembled panel of experts.

“The reason this group is about barriers is because there’s an element of frustration from a technology point of view,” said Adam Powick, a Deloitte partner and primary author of the national e-health strategy.

“Now that the technology is available, how do we break through? Right now we can’t share information between a hospital and GP [general practitioner] 100 metres away for God’s sake. We have to put in place the basic building blocks.”

Powick was supported by Department of Health and Ageing secretary and National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) board member Jane Halton.

“We have to deal with some of the barriers in a way that respects they are real,” she said. “We have to work through [them].”

Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, a GP and professor at Flinders University’s school of medicine, stopped short of labelling the attitude of the room as “negativity”. But he recognised there was “more we can do."

He believed initiatives such as the future forum were a positive. “[By] pulling together people I think we can make this happen,” he said.

Budde’s burst

Tensions were raised from the first opportunity for audience participation as telecommunications analyst Paul Budde criticised the Government over what he saw as a lack of “high-level strategic policy” and frameworks on their part to drive the e-health agenda forward.

“Jane, let’s be honest. The problem is we don’t have good Government policy on e-health going forward,” Budde said.

“We [need to] start with a high-level strategic policy on what we’re going to do with e-health and set a framework so individual silo's point in the same direction. I think we need some leadership from the Government in setting some high-level policy.”

The suggestion immediately appeared to put the panelists on the defensive.

Dr Haikerwal pointed Budde to the national e-health strategy released by the Federal Government last week, while Halton told the packed room, “I think you’ve seen a significant level of leadership from the Government on this.

“NEHTA has been relentlessly swotting away, with some controversy I acknowledge,” she said.

“The bottom line is we do have a strategy. You can’t expect a revolution on this in 20 seconds.

“It does require a bunch of software [and funding] which we don’t have. We all acknowledge we could do more which is why we’re here.”

Powick acknowledged the “absolutely critical” importance of policy but believed the “bigger issue has been the readiness of the [health] sector to take it up.

“The current situation is diabolical,” Powick said, referring to issues of care professionals not being able to share records such as x-rays between facilities.

Heaps more fun here:


Of course Paul Budde is right! (Thanks Paul!) All we have officially is an unfunded 20 page summary National e-Health Strategy and a lot of people who are sick and tired of the obfuscation and delay! As I keep reminding people NEHTA has now been in operation over 5 years and really should have got more done, that makes a difference, before now. Hence the frustration.

Remember it is August 2008 when the National E-Health Strategy was finalised! (16 months ago – not 20 seconds)

If you want some real amusement watch the wrap up session given by the NEHTA CEO with the purpose of dragging together the 2 days of e-Health discussions.

The direct link is here:


I heard the same platitudes and excuses, and the same list of issues and claims of progress, as I have been hearing for the last decade. Just absolute ‘baby steps’ forward and what progress there has been made has been almost in spite of Government policy on many occasions.

It really is time to stop the excuses. If the NBN is going to justify itself an upfront and serious investment is required in the leadership, policy and governance of e-Health in this country. Remember the NBN is said to be an 8 year program – I hope we can make some serious progress well before then. (I am not likely to last that long!)



Anonymous said...

David, agree that the NBN gathering highlighted the gaps in e-health. Not much good news there yet.

One note though, DoHA now has the full version of the Deloitte e-health strategy available from their ehealth page (as do most of the state health departments). Small steps, as usual.

Dr David G More MB PhD said...

Thanks. I note the page is dated December 12, 2009

Here is the link:



Dr David G More MB PhD said...

The link to my copy - Posted on October 7, 2009 is here.


Just maybe I helped get it out!


Anonymous said...

Any idea how many and who attended this summitt?

Anonymous said...

Was this a By Invitation Only gathering?

Were the little people from health invited - the ones that work at the coalface making it all happen or was it more for the suits from the big end of town?

Anonymous said...

There was a mix of Attendees by Invitation and then the others who were able to apply online if they knew about it. Frustratingly an attendee list was not available although some of us asked for one.

The general consensus seemed to be that as this was a government funded summit intended to 'brainstorm for ideas' it would have added to the 'summit's credibility' and helped participants in networking if a list of attendees and their organisations had been made available.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet the other four breakout sessions running in parallel - Smart infrastructure, Digital education, eCommunity, eBusiness - were not nearly as heated as ehealth and they were probably a lot more constructive. But then no doubt they were focused on the future which was the purpose of the summit was it not .... ... like - in 10 years time what possibilities do you see? How will things differ from today? etc.

The eHealth session participants seemed to spend most of the discussion time looking for the fluff in their navels if judging by the early reports are any guide - so ehealth got stuck on the sandbank hammering away about 'funding' or lack thereof. The Health Secretary was clearly very frustrated. She will probably report back to Government and her Minister that overall it was a wasted opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the "lead editors" for each stream came from organisations actually delivering in their area, except for the e-health stream, which was lumbered with Peter Fleming.