Quote Of The Year

Timeless Quotes - Sadly The Late Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"


H. L. Mencken - "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Monday, May 31, 2010

Weekly Australian Health IT Links - 31-05-2010.

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 payment.

General Comment:

The most fun we are going to have in the near future is coming up with Senate Estimates as mentioned in a blog a day or so ago. See here:


I am hoping that we will get some clarity from these sessions as to just what the Government is planning for the e-Health space.

Other than this anticipated future fun there is of course just the ongoing concern about just how well the implementation of the larger health reform agenda is going.

I note the drip feed of announcements is continuing with the announcement of another $58M to support so called clinical leadership groups.


PM flags leadership groups for hospitals


May 28, 2010 - 6:09PM


Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has pledged more funding for the federal government's health reform program, after fronting the nation's largest doctors group.

Speaking at the Australian Medical Association (AMA) annual conference on Friday, Mr Rudd promised an additional $58 million to create lead clinician groups to guide local hospital networks.

The move was welcomed by the AMA, with President Dr Andrew Pesce saying it meant doctors would have a stronger voice in the management of public hospitals.

----- End Extract.

Why wasn’t the need for this discovered during the policy development and consultation process?

Why is it we keep having this drip feed rather than a coherent and planned policy? One really wonders about the quality of the policy formation process in DoHA if this keeps happening – and who knows what the same problem might cause with e-Health?

Just another minor gripe. Why is it that we keep getting press releases saying a solution to some major problem has been found (e.g. the CSIRO / SNOMED releases below) when whatever is being promoted is only a small part of the solution? Overhyping such information does nothing for credibility and public understanding!



E-health reforms demand proper chief

Australia’s urgent need for a chief to drive e-health reforms was highlighted today, by the chief information officer of Singapore’s Ministry of Health Holdings who is driving a ten year investment strategy for the nation costed at up to S$1.5 billion.

Speaking about Singapore’s move toward an electronic health record Dr Sarah Muttitt told a packed session at CeBIT today that such reforms; “Clearly need someone at the helm to influence the decisions...and try to do master IT planning.”While Muttitt was speaking about progress in Singapore her remarks would resonate for many locals who are still wondering who is in charge of e-health here.

Many consider NEHTA – the national health transition authority – led by Peter Fleming and chaired by David Gonski as the natural candidate, but it would need its mandate expanded and more clout. At present the organisation has been focussed on developing health identifier numbers for the national e health record, and acting as a form of clearing house for discussions on e-health governance, standards and the like.

Comment: What a silly suggestion – where is the evidence of capable leadership from NEHTA?



CeBIT opens with Gonski innovation plea

IT Industry - Market

David Gonski, chairman of Investec and also the chairman of the National e-Health Transition Authority, gave the keynote at this morning’s opening of CeBIT in Sydney, with an impassioned plea for the nation to lift its game in terms of innovation.

CeBIT Australia 2010, which has brought together 500 companies to showcase their wares, and organisers hoping they can attract more than 35,000 attendees, was officially opened by NSW premier Kristina Keneally. While the focus of the exhibition is innovation in ICT and the way that is leveraged by business and government, Gonski lamented Australia’s relatively poor international innovation ranking.He called for continued investment in infrastructure in Australia – particularly in the area of the national broadband network and an e-health network. Although the Opposition has in recent days pledged to dismantle these and the Digital Education Revolution investment of the Rudd Government, Gonski said that “In my role as the chair of NEHTA I am acutely aware of the NBN and what an e-heath strategy could achieve.”

Comment: Pity David Gonski is not aware we already have one! Jinx even.



E-Health system raises privacy concerns

24 May 2010 No Comment

A recent boost in federal funding for a shared e-Health report system has re-opened the debate about the protection of patient medical records. Alberto De Angelis reports.

CeBit Australia, the annual global business conference begins today at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre and will be running e-Health workshops and conference to discuss the potential for a nationalhealth record database.

The Federal Government’s $467 million push for the establishment and implementation of an e-Health system however, has raised questions over the protection and control patients will have over their medical records.

The database would allow the health details of voluntarily registered users to be viewed and added to, by registered healthcare providers.

However, while the sharing of healthcare records is voluntary, every person who is in the database will still be issued a healthcare identifier.

These identifiers are numbers that not only link an individual to their health records, if they have volunteered to do so, but also personal information such as name, gender and date of birth.

Dr Chris Mount, acting assistant secretary of the e-Health branch of the Department of Health and Ageing confirmed the automatic assignment of identifier numbers at a privacy forum last week.



Patient data under threat, say auditors

May 25, 2010

FEDERAL government auditors have overruled Medicare, calling on the agency to improve security of patient details held by pharmacists.

Patient information on the 2o0 million prescriptions pharmacists dispense each year are largely electronically held, which the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, says ''continues to be an area of growing threats''.

In an audit report on the administration of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme released yesterday, Mr McPhee revealed a long-running turf war among three health agencies over responsibility for the PBS.



Patients key to nurse national e-health

By Darren Pauli, Computerworld Australia

May 26, 2010 10:53 AM ET

Health experts have warned that Australia's national $466.7 million e-health records system is being rushed and lacks a consumer focus.

Industry pundits from Australian health services joined representatives from the UK National Health Service (NHS) and the Singapore Ministry of Health at the CeBIT 2010 conference in Sydney today in proposing the Federal Government should engage consumers before deploying its e-health initiative.

NHS "Connecting for Health" clinical architect, Dr Mike Bainbridge, said the government needs to engage consumers now about how e-health should be deployed.

"You have to move now to engage citizens," Dr Bainbridge said. "You don't have the luxury of 7 years of mistakes like we did."



CeBIT 2010: Barcodes pushed for national medicine recalls

National medicines body looks to implement national barcoding system to ensure recall compliance

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) may introduce a new barcode-based product recall notification system as early as June next year, according to the company that built it.

The new system will be based on a global product database created by not-for-profit organisation, GS1, which is also used in sectors ranging from grocery and retail to transport and defence supply chain management.

According to GS1 Australia's chief executive officer, Maria Palazzolo, the RecallNet system would ensure compliance among individual healthcare providers for pharmaceutical and medical goods.



Officials nervous over Morecambe Bay's planned go-live

By Tony Collins on May 27, 2010 10:58 AM

NHS staff and executives at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust are planning for an important go-live of iSoft's Lorenzo system this Bank Holiday weekend.

A spokeswoman for the Trust said this morning (27 May 2010) that she was unaware that any definite decision for a go-live had yet been taken, but all the signs are that the Trust wants it to happen this weekend.

Not all officials at Richmond House, the headquarters of the Department of Health, share Morecambe Bay's conviction that a go-live this weekend is a good idea.



Mentally ill turn to e-therapy


May 30, 2010

MENTALLY ill Australians are increasingly being diagnosed and treated online in virtual psychiatric clinics, without ever seeing a doctor.

Patients suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are being assessed by computer and given ''e-prescriptions'' for online counselling courses instead of medication or treatment sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Doctors who provide e-therapy say it produces better results than face-to-face treatment but at a fraction of the cost.

Private appointments with mental health specialists cost an average of $100 an hour.

With e-therapy, patients are clinically diagnosed after completing psychiatric reviews by answering online questions. They then have the option to enrol in a free electronic self-help treatment program or receive assistance from an online therapist at limited cost.



Coalition claims commitment to e-health, despite plan to axe e-records

24th May 2010


THE federal Opposition says it believes in electronic health records - even though it's promised to reverse Labor's decision to introduce them by mid-2012 if elected to government.

Earlier this week, the Coalition announced it would "abolish individual electronic health records" as a way of saving $467 million over the next two years.

The announcement drew criticism from health experts, and from the Government, which took the opportunity to underline that in 2007, then Health Minister Tony Abbott said “failure to establish an electronic patient record system within five years... would be an indictment against everyone in the system”. (Abbott attracts criticism for plan to axe e-health program, MO 21 May)



Crisis meeting over Qld Health payroll software

Queensland nurses are to hold an urgent meeting with health authorities at the state's Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) on Thursday.



QLD Health must stop system docking pay

By Josh Taylor, ZDNet.com.au on May 28th, 2010

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) has ordered Queensland Health to stop making unauthorised deductions from employees' pay, as troubles with the roll-out of the agency's new payroll system continue.

The Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) summoned Queensland Health to a meeting at the QIRC yesterday to address member concerns that the SAP-based payroll system had been making deductions from employees it incorrectly deemed to have over-paid.

Employees who had been underpaid using the payroll had been given ad-hoc payments. The system had taken these ad-hoc payments as overpayments above the normal wage, and had deducted that amount from the employee's next pay cheque.



e-health experts fan hospital waiting list style rage

To properly engage Australians in the e-health debate, it has to become an issue as significant to voters as hospital waiting lists, according to experts in the field speaking at CeBIT today.

During a panel session bringing together international experts on e-health, Mary Foley the national health practice leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that although its recent surveys had found that 36 per cent of Australians supported having an electronic file containing their health records in a doctor’s office or hospital , and 30 per cent would like web based access to those records, the e-health sector was guilty of largely speaking to itself rather than the broader community.

She suggested electronic health records had to become as important an issue to the community as were hospital waiting lists in order to really engage health care consumers or patients.



Opposition to address e-health privacy

  • Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • May 25, 2010 5:19PM

THE federal Opposition plans to tighten up aspects of the controversial Healthcare Identifiers Bill before debate in the Senate next month.

Coalition spokesman for regional health services Andrew Southcott said while supporting the Bill's intent, a number of amendments aimed at greater parliamentary oversight would strengthen protections for patients.

"In particular, the Bill as it stands continues to raise concerns about privacy and the possibility of function creep," Mr Southcott said in a statement.



E-health the 'right thing' to do: expert

  • Andrew Colley
  • From: Australian IT
  • May 25, 2010 4:42PM

THE economic arguments for rolling out tele-health services in Australia maybe tough to prove, a US e-health expert has warned.

Robert Bosch Healthcare business development director Suneel Ratan today warned that the economics of rolling out tele-health were strongest in the US where healthcare costs were high relative to other markets.

Mr Ratan was commenting on RBH's experience providing healthcare services for the US Department of Veteran Affairs at the CeBIT technology conference in Sydney.



'E-health needs a lot of work to become reality'

NEW e-health initiatives to connect patients with doctors won't work because of a lack of infrastructure, experts say.

Health and IT experts at the CeBIT expo in Sydney yesterday met to discuss the need for tele-health initiatives such as video conferencing to take pressure off the current Australian health system.

Brendan Lovelock, health practice Head at Cisco Systems, said Australia’s current health system was not sustainable for the future.

"There are not, and will not be, sufficient resources to meet our expectations of care in Australia," Mr Lovelock said.



Australia not ready for e-Health

25 May 2010 One Comment

By Alice Downey | Health Editor

New E-Health initiatives to connect patients with doctors won’t work because of a lack of infrastructure, experts said at the CeBit Conference in Sydney yesterday.

One of these initiatives is the implementation of Tele-Health practices such as video conferencing to take pressure off the current Australian health system.

Brendan Lovelock, the Health Practice Head at Cisco Systems, says Australia’s current health system is not sustainable for the future.



Web portal Warrior Gateway helps digital-age vets


May 24, 2010

For young veterans returning from duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, the process of re-entering society can be daunting, especially if they have been injured or have struggled with mental health problems.

A new, free Web portal wants to help these warriors find the services they need in an environment they are comfortable in: the Internet.

Warrior Gateway is designed with Google Inc. and social media in mind to make its intended audience as comfortable as possible. Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, generally in their mid-20s, grew up with e-mail, keep in touch using Facebook and are familiar with online communities that stretch across time zones.



Opportunity to join the new NEHTA Australian Clinical Terminology User Group (ACT-UG).

The purpose of the group is to:

  • Harness the Australian Clinical Informatics Community’s interest and willingness to contribute to the development of clinical terminology components that support the national e-health agenda.
  • Support safe, effective and efficient implementation of clinical terminology in Australian healthcare.
  • Disseminate information and feedback between the IHTSDO, other relevant clinical terminology standards bodies and the Australian Clinical Informatics Community.
  • Through the above, help expand the pool of clinical terminology expertise available in Australia to support the national e-health agenda.

The first meeting of the ACT-UG will be held on 30 June 2010, via web and teleconference, with agenda items covering rationale for the group; terms of reference, meeting schedules and calls for Co-Chair nominations. We will also use this opportunity to brief participants on current NEHTA and IHTSDO structures and goals. For those who would prefer to attend in either Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra meetings rooms can be made available. Please advise if you do wish to use this facility.



NEHTA snaps up CSIRO technology for e-health records system upgrade

Software will help computers ‘talk the same language’

The federal government’s national e-health transition authority (NEHTA) is using CSIRO software in its SNOMED CT infrastructure.

SNOMED CT, or systematised nomenclature of medicine - clinical terms, provides a consistent framework from which healthcare providers can share health records.

Inaccurate or missing data from patient records in previous systems led to unnecessary hospitalisations and a waste of about 25 per cent of clinicians’ time, according to the CSIRO.



Relieving the electronic health records headache

Source: CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

May 21, 2010

Inaccurate or missing data in patient records has resulted in people being hospitalised unnecessarily and wastage of an estimated 25 per cent of clinicians' time spent collecting patient data.

As part of the Federal Government's e-health initiatives, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) is implementing an internationally agreed standard for the dictionary of clinical terms used in electronic health records software, called SNOMED CT.

CSIRO E-Health Theme Leader, Dr David Hansen, said that while SNOMED CT has been customised for Australia, health practitioners are still encountering problems with the system.



Little scientific credibility behind health scare headlines


May 24, 2010

News reports about mobiles giving you cancer aim to entertain.

MOBILE phones give you brain cancer, and a bacon sandwich a day puts up heart disease by a half. It makes the choice pretty simple: bacon is tastier than ceaseless phone chat, and myocardial infarction a lot less painful than a brain tumour. That said, it would be foolish to rule out the possibility that you've eaten a bacon sandwich while on the phone - in which case it's not a choice but a double whammy.

Both of these appeared as headlines in the right-wing London tabloid The Daily Mail: on the mobiles and brain cancer risk, its report was a marked contrast to those of the broadsheets, who agreed that the study on which the story was based had found no statistically significant raised risk. The author of the study, Professor Anthony Swerdlow of Britain's Institute of Cancer Research, clarified the findings for me (as he had already, in a press conference - the misreporting here isn't accidental): there were 10 usage groups, ranging from very low to very high. In the very highest group - those reporting using their phone for 12 or more hours a day - there was a raised chance of both glioma and meningioma.



Filtering by computer fails on judgment


May 25, 2010

The plan to filter the internet for material refused classification under Australian law is legally flawed. Australia's classification law is not compatible with the Rudd government's proposal, and in fact has its own problems that make it unsuitable as a basis for any internet ''clean feed''.

Publications, movies and computer games ''refused classification'' cover a wide spectrum. They deal with child pornography, explicit sex and extreme violence, and controversial areas such as euthanasia and abortion which are outlawed in all or part of Australia.

Working out whether something should be refused classification cannot be undertaken in any mechanical or formulaic way, like using word recognition or other automated techniques. The decision requires a personal, individual judgment that is, by its nature, highly subjective.



Commercial filters on the side of web censorship

  • Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • May 26, 2010 12:08PM

GOVERNMENT firewalls and censorship are not the only threat to online freedom, with commercial filters increasingly blocking user access to websites, Tor Project founder Roger Dingledine warns.

As companies and public-sector organisations adopt unified security products and web content security, many more employees may find legitimate websites are blocked, along with known nasties.

"The Tor Project website is often blocked by filters used by news organisations, for example," he said.

"Journalists in the US are being censored by commercial filters such as SmartFilter or Websense which prevent access to the internet as the rest of the world sees it.



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