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."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 19 September, 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 subscription payment.

General Comment:

The main issue this week has been the failure of governance in the e-Health domain in Australia that has led to the sort of thing that is editorialised about here:

Where did the common-sense button go?

By Suzanne Tindal, ZDNet.com.au on September 16th, 2010

News that doctors have been paid an incentive for implementing e-health systems that are not available has floored me.

I can't blame the doctors for claiming offered money for taking part in a program. However, given that the government knew that the systems involved in parts of the program were not going to be available on time, why didn't anyone stop the flow of compensation?

Apparently the risk that systems might be delayed was identified early, but no one did anything to stop the incentive program. Instead everything trundled along as normal, ending in systems not being ready.

No one thought to say "In that case, we should probably delay payments for that part of the incentive". (I'm not sure of the legal ins and outs of being able to do so, but surely someone must have written a contingency into whatever doctors had to sign to be a part of the program, especially since $83 million was budgeted for the e-health portion of the incentive program per year.)

More here:


Of course we also had the appalling revelation that after having messed about for almost three years in implementing NASH finally admitted it was all too hard!

Details here:


Dramatic improvement is needed here - to say the least.



Health of a nation to go by the numbers

Karen Kissane

September 18, 2010

MORE than 22 million Australians now have new government-issued identity numbers as part of a $466 million plan to create individual electronic health records that can be shared online - but most of them don't know it yet.

Privacy advocates have criticised the automatic mass assignment of numbers and the fact that recipients have not been notified that they exist.

The 16-digit number has been created by Medicare and can be accessed via Medicare cards. Called an ''individual health identifier'', it is the first step in a national plan to move to ''e-health'', computerising health records, prescriptions and referrals, and creating an encrypted mail system for doctors and hospitals. It has been estimated e-health could save $8.7 billion over 10 years by improving medical practices.

From July 2012, patients will be able to ask their doctors to use the identifier to create a shared ''e-record'', containing a summary of an individual's health details and personal information.



Consumer support is the key to getting e-health off the ground

HEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon will need to win over consumers as she moves on her e-health agenda.

She has $467 million on the table for personal records and a further $392m to get GPs and specialists consulting with patients over the internet.

The National E-Health Transition Authority's head of strategy and e-health architecture, Andrew Howard, last week conceded a failure to address community concerns over the past two years. "We've had a big focus to engage with medical professionals, and our clinical leads program has been outstanding," he told Chik Service's Health-e-Nation conference in Sydney..

"But we still lack engagement with consumers.

"We need to find out what people really want, and how we can involve them in the (development) process."



Emergency alert to be improved

September 14, 2010 - 10:39AM


The federal government will improve the national emergency warning system so it can alert people to disaster threats based on the location of their mobile phone.

The Emergency Alert system already sends warnings by recorded voice and text message to landlines and mobile phones based on an owner's billing address.

In response to last year's interim report of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission, Labor agreed a national warning system that delivered alerts according to where a person's mobile phone was actually located was also needed.



Roxon meets with GP leaders on second term

by Michael Woodhead

In one of her first actions as health minister in the new Gillard government, Nicola Roxon today met with peak general practice groups to discuss issues such as e-health.

According to the umbrella group United General Practice Australia, there was strong shared support for accelerated implementation of e-health initiatives such as the GP patient summary as the basis for the proposed electronic patient health record.

There was support also for electronic initiatives to improve access to pathology, diagnostic imaging, discharge summaries, and electronic prescriptions.


Medicare rebate call for sick web gamers

EXPERTS want computer addicts to be allowed to claim their treatment on Medicare.

Psychiatrists and psychologists receiving calls for help from distressed families believe addiction to the internet and computer games will soon be listed as a mental disorder.

School children and young adults are becoming so dangerously hooked on computer games that they are being offered live-in treatment at psychiatric facilities.

Psychologist Andrew Campbell from the University of Sydney and psychiatrist Philip Tam of Concord's Rivendell Adolescent Unit have told The Daily Telegraph computer addiction should be classified as a disorder.



iPad invasion proves bitter-sweet

Stephen Cauchi

September 19, 2010

THEY call it a tablet, but four months after the Australian release of Apple's iPad revolutionary touch-screen computer, the device's popularity is proving a bitter pill for laptop sellers.

While it has been swiftly embraced by businesses as diverse as airlines and hospitals, the iPad is opening up new markets while cannibalising the cheaper end of the established computer market.

Qantas subsidiary Jetstar is the latest organisation to be considering a bulk order.

Students, lawyers, sales reps and sporting clubs have embraced the device and 500 doctors in Victorian hospitals will be testing it next year.



Morecambe Bay creates stabilisation plan

16 Sep 2010

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust has launched a stabilisation plan to bring major and persistent problems with its electronic patient record system, Lorenzo, under control.

Weekly updates sent to Morecambe Bay staff, and seen by E-Health Insider, show that one of the aims of the plan is to allow them to “transact a day’s work in one working day - reducing the need for spending extra hours putting-in information.”

The updates also note some of the problems that the trust is still experiencing with the system. These include some live patients being identified as deceased when contacts are being created.

The 'Lorenzo - thirteen weeks' in log says that 'when creating contacts for certain non-deceased patients, a message box appears asking the use if they want to continue as the patient is deceased.'



Medtech wins NZ e-health contract

17:03, 15th September 2010

By Dylan Bushell-Embling (CFO World)

Health IT company Medtech Global (ASX:MDG) has won a contract to deliver an e-therapy service to the Northern DHB Support Agency.

Medtech, through a consortium led by its New Zealand subsidiary Medtech Limited, will supply a program for the assessment and treatment of mild to moderate depression for use nationwide in New Zealand.



Suspended e-health plans now on track

By Josh Taylor, ZDNet.com.au on September 13th, 2010

Workshops and the trial sites for e-health roll-out in Australia had to be stopped in the course of the election, but they're now back on track, according to National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) CEO Peter Fleming.

In the 2010 election campaign, it was unclear what the Coalition was intending to do instead of the $466.7 million investment in e-health outlined by Labor in the May budget; the spend was expected by many to be reduced significantly. According to Fleming, this meant any projects that didn't come under the Council of Australian Governments then budgets were put on hold while the outcome was determined.

"Anything that came under the $466.7 million the Commonwealth had announced we needed to be fairly quiet on. We were still working but not on that particular component," Fleming told ZDNet Australia.

"Prior to the election being called we had actually started a series of workshops around the concept of operations for an electronic health record and also the architecture [and] when we went into caretaker mode those workshops had to be stopped," Fleming said. "But they've been reconvened, almost immediately as you'd expect, and the intention there is to get a very diverse series of views from all of our key stakeholders, document that and publish it for very wide input."



Hospitals fall well short of target for treatment

Louise Hall

September 14, 2010

Sydney's biggest hospital is still struggling to see patients who have ''potentially life-threatening'' conditions on time.

Leaked documents reveal that Westmead Hospital treated just 33 per cent of triage category three patients within the recommended 30 minutes last month.

But the state government refuses to publicly release the weekly performance reports generated by the Department of Health, opting instead to publish quarterly reports eight weeks after the end of each period, when the data is up to six months out of date.

A budget estimates hearing yesterday was told West Australian hospitals report the activity in their emergency departments in real time, with a website showing the number of people waiting to be seen, the average waiting time and whether ambulances are being diverted.



NEHTA issues major e-health tender

By Renai LeMay, ZDNet.com.au on September 15th, 2010

The Federal Government today delivered the health sector a much clearer picture of how its giant $466.7 million electronic health records project will be delivered, with the initiation of a major purchasing initiative for the project through the nation's peak e-health body, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA).

NEHTA and the Federal Department of Health today went to market for its "National Authentication Service for Health" (NASH).

"The NASH is a foundation component within NEHTA's overall program to foster the design and development of technology to deliver the best e-health system for Australia," the government-owned company wrote. "It will provide a strong authentication service for the Australian healthcare sector and contribute to providing a capability that ensures that transactions are private, traceable and only conducted by known entities."



Vacuum of facts on NBN

September 16, 2010

TONY Abbott wants Malcolm Turnbull to attack the government's ''reckless'' national broadband network (NBN) project and win over the independents, but so far the entire NBN cost-benefit debate has been hapless.

It's not the financial return the government-owned NBN Co gets from an NBN rollout that matters, it's the economic dividend the nation as a whole gets, either from Labor's high-speed, ubiquitous network or cheaper alternatives including the Coalition's lower-speed, lower-cost private-public hybrid.

And nobody knows the answer. Consulting firm Accenture estimated in 2001 that the economic benefits could be between $12 billion and $30 billion a year for Australia, but some of that upside has already been captured. What's left and whether it is worth the extra cost of Labor's high-speed national network is unknown - and it will be until an authoritative national cost-benefit report is produced.



Wires crossed in quest for a new broadband network

September 13, 2010

Narrow thinking is bogging down what is a crucial debate.

THE big winner out of the 2010 federal election was democracy. The longer we have a minority government that can't be sure it has the numbers to ram through legislation in Parliament, the more issues will have to be debated.

But the potential for open government should be put to the test to ensure it is the servant of good government.

The big campaign issue that still divides the major parties is the national broadband network. It is in the nation's interest that the decision on this be subject to proper process, including a cost/benefit study and an examination of the role of Lindsay Tanner. The former finance minister is a newly appointed director of financial advisers Lazard, which was granted a $3.4 million contract in July to advise the government on financing the project. Tanner joins former Labor prime minister Paul Keating on the board.



Conroy keeps communications portfolio

Kate Lundy appointed parliamentary secretary

  • AAP (AAP)
  • 11 September, 2010 14:25

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says her new ministry delivers on a promise to establish a portfolio dedicated to regional Australia.

It will be headed by Simon Crean, previously responsible for education and workplace relations.

The announcement on Saturday comes four days after Labor secured the support of two country independents to form minority government in the first hung federal parliament in 70 years.



Chief executives demand change from Conroy

  • James Chessell and Mitchell Bingemann
  • From: The Australian
  • September 13, 2010 12:00AM

THE federal government has been presented with a broad array of potential media and telecommunications reforms.

This has come about as part of its promise to consider overhauling the way the industry is regulated in a convergent media era.

A survey by The Australian of media and telco executives stresses the difficulties that Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will face in balancing competing corporate interests after the $43 billion National Broadband Network is constructed.

Although most chief executives agree many media and communications laws are out of date, there is little industry-wide consensus on the best way to tackle the challenges and opportunities brought about by the digital economy. Copyright, anti-siphoning, spectrum allocation, ownership rules, mandatory digital radio in cars, local content quotas and the operational separation of Telstra are just some of the issues executives say should be examined by the Gillard government.



Election delayed Telstra NBN paperwork

  • From: AAP
  • September 13, 2010 10:36AM

THE election held up the legal work for Telstra's multibillion dollar involvement in the national broadband network, the federal government says.

The delay reportedly has upset Future Fund chairman David Murray who says his organisation, which has a large holding in Telstra, is in the dark about the heads of agreement struck between NBN Co and the giant telco in June.

"We don't know what the terms of the agreement are," Mr Murray was quoted in Fairfax newspapers today.

Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy says details will be made available to Telstra shareholders in the coming months.



Abbott reveals Turnbull's role in 'baton change' strategy

TONY Abbott today revealed that Malcolm Turnbull is central to his strategy to convince the independents to shift their support from Labor to the Coalition.

One day after announcing his line-up, Mr Abbott hit the airwaves to attack the Government's $43 billion National Broadband Network.

The Opposition leader said there was “no reason whatsoever why there couldn't be a baton change at some point early in the government's term”.

“We've got to demonstrate to the Australian public that we would be a better and safer pair of hands than the Labor party, that we can be better trusted with public money than the Labor party,” he told ABC radio.



Secret tests of nurse hotline reveal unsafe advice

Julia Medew

September 16, 2010

VICTORIA'S nurse-on-call hotline has given people unsafe advice and failed to answer tens of thousands of calls fast enough since it began four years ago, an Auditor-General's report says.

The report, written by Des Pearson, said although the service was generally safe, 4 per cent of 800 mystery callers designed to test it in recent years had received unsafe advice from the nurses who did not process their calls properly.

In some of the 31 cases, the nurses' failure to pick up on information about how long the callers had been in pain or whether they were dehydrated meant they did not tell the callers to seek help fast enough. The nurses who took these calls have since received coaching and the report said the results of mystery-caller testing had improved over the past year with only 2 per cent of calls deemed unsafe, compared to 5 per cent in 2008-09.



Deal with the bush puts National Broadband Network further off

  • Tracy Lee and Nicola Berkovic
  • From: The Australian
  • September 17, 2010 12:00AM

JULIA Gillard's deal with the independents to prioritise connecting rural Australia to high-speed internet will delay the rollout of the NBN.

The Australian understands that NBN Co, the government enterprise overseeing the $43 billion fibre broadband project, was expected to choose the final list of construction contractors by the end of this year.

But that has now been deferred until early next year after the federal election pushed out schedules and while contractors grapple with a requirement to show in their tender process how they will prioritise building in rural and regional areas.



Unproven breast tests could put lives at risk

Jill Stark

September 19, 2010

CANCER specialists warn that private clinics offering unproven breast screening methods as a ''safe'' alternative to mammograms could be putting women's lives at risk.

Clinics selling Botox, liposuction and spray tans are increasingly providing breast cancer screening that uses thermal imaging and ''electrical impedance'' technology.

The methods are being marketed to women as young as 20, with claims they can detect cancer years earlier than mammograms.

Experts say the technologies are not backed by sufficient scientific evidence and those offering tests often have little medical training.



Nursing hotline in fresh row

Julia Medew

September 17, 2010

VICTORIA'S troubled nurse-on-call service has failed to reduce demand for emergency departments, doctors say. They have also questioned the quality of advice provided.

Since the service began in 2006, the Victorian government has said it was saving precious hospital resources.

But yesterday, the Victorian chairman of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins, said emergency departments were busier than ever.

He said ''we should not pretend'' that the service was a panacea for hospital overcrowding, saying that people who used the service were not those who spent long hours in emergency departments.



Making skin that responds to touch has been the biggest obstacle in robot design

  • From: AFP
  • September 13, 2010 12:00PM

BIOTECH wizards have engineered electronic skin that can sense touch, in a major step towards next-generation robotics and prosthetic limbs.

The lab-tested material responds to almost the same pressures as human skin and with the same speed, they reported in the British journal Nature Materials.

Important hurdles remain but the exploit is an advance towards replacing today's clumsy robots and artificial arms with smarter, touch-sensitive upgrades, they believe.

“Humans generally know how to hold a fragile egg without breaking it,” said Ali Javey, an associate professor of computer sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, who led one of the research teams.

“If we ever wanted a robot that could unload the dishes, for instance, we'd want to make sure it doesn't break the wine glasses in the process. But we'd also want the robot to grip the stock pot without dropping it.”

The “e-skin” made by Javey's team comprises a matrix of nanowires made of germanium and silicon rolled onto a sticky polyimide film.



Uni gives iPads to science students

University of Adelaide to provide free iPads to hundreds of students

The University of Adelaide is ditching paper-based textbooks in favour of iPads and will hand out free devices to students enrolling in a science degree in 2011, claiming the new Apple tablets will revolutionise the way science is taught at the institution.

"I believe this approach will revolutionise the way science is taught at the University of Adelaide. We will be the first university in Australia to teach in this innovative way," Faculty of Sciences Executive Dean, Professor Bob Hill, said in a statement.

"Our teaching material will be more accessible, more relevant and more frequently updated, providing the flexible learning environment that students are looking for."



Dark matter discovery hopes raised at US mine


September 16, 2010

TWO small signals detected in an experiment deep underground in an abandoned US iron ore mine could be the first glimpses of the mysterious dark matter that is thought to make up about 24 per cent of the universe.

Scientists are not claiming it has been discovered yet. More results are needed to be certain.

But of all the missing parts of the cosmos, dark matter is possibly the closest to being found, with three different kinds of searches under way.

Like wind in a fluttering flag, it is obviously there. We just cannot see it. ''There is very clear evidence for dark matter from the way spiral galaxies rotate,'' Ken Freeman, of the Australian National University, said. Without it, they could not spin as fast as they do.




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