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."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 08 March, 2011.

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:


While the big news of the week has been NEHTA awarding a contract for some help with NASH to IBM there has been a bit of a sleeper emerge.

This is covered in the first article below.

The important part of the article is the following:

“But Ms Kerr this week said “It doesn’t really matter what they use. Even if those health professionals are able to access them via certificates, if the computer us compromised by malware and people use the password on the infected computer then the criminal has the complete access to the system and the record.”

“What we don’t know is the platforms that people will be able to use to access the records – that’s what is important.”

Ms Kerr said that while there was a lot of focus on the privacy threat associated with PCEHRs, there was a security issue also in terms of criminal elements gaining access to the records. “Of course the key is how to monetise the information,” she acknowledged.

“I’m not sure how they would do it – but it is still a concern.”

Certainly the risk of identity theft could be heightened if computer criminals were able to access personal identifying data associated with the PCEHR.”

It will be interesting to see just how NASH addresses this sort of problem. The cost and effort of securing all the PCs that might be enabled to access the PCEHR will be an interesting challenge. We know the banks do a reasonable job - but it costs a lot but they have a powerful incentive (losing money) to do a good job. I wonder will DoHA be prepared to invest as heavily to protect patient information?



E-health security spooks AusCERT

Leading security group AusCERT has raised concerns about the safety of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) which Australians will be able to sign up for starting next year, and which is the cornerstone of the Government’s proposed e-health initiatives.

Speaking at Kickstart 11 this week, Kathryn Kerr, AusCERT’s manager for analysis and assessments, said that to date there was not much information available about the operation of the PCEHR but she believed patients would be able to nominate who would have access to that record, providing access to the record for themselves, health professionals, family members or carers.

“What we don’t know is, are they accessible by patients anywhere and anytime?” which according to Ms Kerr could pose a real security problem.

AusCERT, which is based at the University of Queensland, was until 2010 Australia’s national Computer Emergency Response Team, after which the role was taken over by the Government owned CERT Australia. While no longer the official national CERT, AusCERT’s concerns about a fundamental element of the national e-health strategy should prompt serious consideration.


E-health: McKinsey asks what's up doc?

  • Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • March 02, 2011 2:04PM

CONSULTANCY McKinsey & Co has pocketed $1.55 million for four months' work researching the e-health readiness of Australia's medical specialists and allied health providers.

The federal Health department has paid $600,000 to survey specialists and $950,000 to cover the allied health sector.

According to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare workforce statistics, in 2008 there were more than 90,000 allied health professionals, encompassing dieticians, optometrists, physiotherapists, psychologists, chiropractors and osteopaths.

And the medical specialist workforce was around 24,700, including internal medicine specialists, surgeons, anaesthetists, obstetricians and pathologists.



Australia pipped by US in the race to rollout the bionic eye

AUSTRALIA's aim to be world leaders in commercialising the "bionic eye" has been dealt a blow with a US company gaining approval to sell its device this year.

Los Angeles-based Second Sight Medical Products said Australia was now one of a series of countries "on its radar" for marketing and transplanting its bionic eye, which this week received commercial go-ahead in Europe.

Second Sight’s bionic eye, the Argus II, will be available commercially after it attained the required CE Certification in Europe.

The Argus II will go on sale "in the coming months", initially in Europe, Second Sight business development vice-president Brian Mech told The Australian.



Surgeon, Anthony Atala, creates new kidney on stage

  • From: AFP
  • March 04, 2011 4:12PM

A SURGEON specialising in regenerative medicine yesterday "printed" a real kidney using a machine that eliminates the need for donors when it comes to organ transplants.

"It's like baking a cake," Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine said as he cooked up a fresh kidney on stage at a conference in the California city of Long Beach.

Scanners are used to take a 3D image of a kidney that needs replacing, then a tissue sample about half the size of postage stamp is used to seed the computerised process, Atala explained.

The organ "printer" then works layer-by-layer to build a replacement kidney replicating the patient's tissue.



Medicare revises healthcare identifier developer agreement

A new identifier licence is to be released shortly to plug legal gaps raised before their introduction last year

Medicare Australia has reached an agreement with e-health vendors surrounding a legal blackhole in developer agreements signed for use of individual healthcare identifiers, with hopes a revised license to be released in the coming week will encourage wider use of the identifiers in clinical software.

The negotiations, which were sparked last year, accompany ongoing testing of the identifier system among consumers by lead e-health agency, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), more than eight months after legislation for use of the identifiers passed Parliament, and the numbers assigned to 23 million Australians and healthcare providers.

Sources told Computerworld Australia that the legal blackhole was identified as impossible to comply with by both Medicare, the current managing agent for the identifier system, and NEHTA.

Under the current contract, the developer would be held liable for any mistakes made by Medicare or the healthcare provider - however unlikely - involving the use of a patient’s healthcare identifier after implementation of the clinical software.

The issue was first raised by the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA) in April last year, but it is believed an agreement was only reached on Monday this week.

A spokesperson for Medicare confirmed the agreement had been revised and would be available on the agency’s website once fully complete.

Note: I can find nothing on www.medicare.gov.au as of today.



Doctors slam model for Lead Clinician Groups

  • Adam Creswell, Health editor
  • From: The Australian
  • February 26, 2011 12:00AM

DOCTORS have argued for medical practitioners to form the majority of members of the federal government's planned Lead Clinician Groups, designed to return a say in the running of hospitals to care providers.

In a submission in response to a recent government discussion paper on the likely shape of the new groups, the Australian Medical Association says while membership of each should include at least one nurse or midwife and one allied health practitioner, most seats should go to doctors, "given they take responsibility for the whole of patient care".

The submission also makes the case for the clinician groups to advise hospital chief executives "on all matters regarding patient care and health outcomes", including clinical workforce issues, teaching and training requirements, research and audit, workforce responsibilities and scopes of practice and "efficient and equitable use of hospital resources".



Pharmacy software vendors gets federal boost

  • Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • March 02, 2011 8:47AM

PHARMACY software-makers were paid $2 million to upgrade their software for the federal government’s new PBS medicine subsidy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living with chronic illnesses.

Under the program, eligible patients pay the concessional rate of $5.40 per item, rather than the full PBS co-payment of up to $33 per item.

The Closing the Gap health measure was introduced last July to improve access to medications.

Eleven software firms received payments ranging from $140,000 (Mountaintop Systems) to $326,000 (Pharmhos Software) to modify their pharmacy systems, according to documents just released by the Health department.



Rivals NASH teeth as IBM wins e-health deal

IBM today revealed it had won a $23.6 million contract with the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) to deliver the Federal Government’s National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) project.

As part of a $466.7 million investment in the e-health records announced in September last year by the Federal Government, the nation’s peak e-health body NEHTA has chosen IBM to build and manage its new NASH system, which aims at establishing a nationwide secure and authenticated service for both healthcare organisations and personnel that have to exchange e-health information.

NEHTA chief executive Peter Fleming said NASH would improve healthcare for both professionals and patients. “Our agreement with IBM enables NEHTA to build a system that will give healthcare professionals timely and secure access to appropriate patient information,” he said in a statement. “In turn, the NASH program will take us one step closer to broader healthcare access for all Australians.”



121 Qld Health workers in fraud probe

March 2, 2011 - 10:29AM


About 120 Queensland Health workers are under investigation for fraud over $662,000 in emergency payments claimed during the state's payroll crisis.

A new Queensland Health payroll system introduced in March last year left hundreds of staff underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

The department introduced an emergency cash payment scheme to counter the payroll problems.

Queensland Health has confirmed the Crime and Misconduct Commission has investigated 121 cases for fraud. The total figure of payments claimed is $662,000.



Queensland Health payroll problems far from over

New payroll system has made thousands of mistakes since March last year.

  • AAP (AAP)
  • 01 March, 2011 10:39

Queensland's health minister says the state's health pay woes will improve but he doesn't know when they'll be fixed.

A new payroll system introduced for Queensland Health (QH) last March has made thousands of mistakes.

An independent report in November estimated it would take 18 months and cost $209 million to fix.

Geoff Wilson, who became health minister one week ago in a cabinet reshuffle, told reporters on Monday there would be "significant improvements" over the next several months.



Patients come first but the system needs help now


March 1, 2011

Installing electronic patient medical records in hospitals and reducing unnecessary procedures are two of the big fixes for NSW.

I WORK in a public hospital which still requires me to write notes in a paper file when I see a patient on a ward round. This is in 2011, in metropolitan Sydney. I am unable to email a patient's discharge summary to their general practitioner.

The local doctor is also unable to download any of the patient's health records into the hospital's information system. The result is a constant risk to the patient through poor documentation, duplication of investigations and miscommunication.

Recently I cared for an elderly man who was already seeing six different specialists, in addition to his GP, for his various health problems but still ended up being admitted to the hospital under the care of a seventh specialist: myself. I had never met him before, so had to start over from scratch. He, like many chronically ill and elderly patients, spends an inordinate amount of time travelling to doctor’s appointments.



The goal is better health outcomes

THE man stepping into the top Health IT job, Paul Madden, wants you to know his title is chief information and knowledge officer.

"I'm taking on a knowledge and intelligence management role, as well as the IT side," he says.

"As we step into the e-health world, we do have some new opportunities to simplify and standardise performance reporting, and to bring in new levels of intelligence about what's happening across the community.

"Our end goal is better health outcomes for people.

"We're just reaching a point where the technology and visions for connection are being embraced, and I think it's time to make sure we have an integrated way of making that happen."

Madden comes from a strong background in the Tax Office and Treasury. Over the past four years he led Treasury's ambitious standard business reporting program, aimed at slashing red tape for companies when dealing with government.



Sector in dire need of funding

THE local e-health industry is in for a shake up, with acquisitions, new entrants and consolidation ahead this year, Adam Powick says.

"Many parts of the sector are just hanging on, and they need an injection of funds," he says. "That may come from government for those who are successful in the next round of projects.

"But I think there will also be fresh money as newcomers take equity in local firms, particularly those with good technologies.

"Private health insurers and telcos will also be playing a more active role in the market."

Powick says serious progress has to be made on the ground this year if the Gillard government's 2012 deadline for the introduction of personal e-health records is to be met.



Project risks medical record privacy, expert warns

HEALTH bureaucrats risk exposing patient medical information by starting e-health projects before key decisions on security, consent, technical controls and regulatory oversight are made.

And Australian Privacy Foundation chair Roger Clarke has attacked the National E-Health Transition Authority and federal Health officials for cutting consumers out of the design process for the $467 million personally controlled e-health record system.

"Because consumer representatives have had so little input, there's a very strong chance sensitive data will be compromised, and the system won't suit people's needs," he said.



iSOFT swings to $84m loss

Shares in health IT company iSOFT (ASX:ISF) slumped 10 per cent on Friday after the company revealed it had swung to an $84.1m loss

Health IT company iSOFT (ASX:ISF) swung to an $84.1 million net loss in 1H11, due to restructuring costs and impairment charges.

ISF shares fell 10.29 per cent to $0.061 in Friday's trading following the announcement.

The company, which had made a $4.8 million profit in 1H10, spent the most recent half attempting to restore the financial health of the business.



E-health protocols trump network speed in NBN inquiry

Data transfer protocols would "save lives the fastest", committee hears.

The Australian Medical Association today highlighted a lack of data transfer protocols as one of the chief barriers to effective, electronic healthcare provision.

Addressing a Parliamentary Inquiry on the role and potential of a National Broadband Network, AMA vice president Steven Hambleton said non-network barriers were holding back electronic information transfer.

Despite having an ADSL2 connection that was shared between 15 desktop computers, Hambleton said most communications left his Brisbane office via fax or paper.

Inefficient communication methods could lead to drug prescription errors and a lack of follow-up, he warned.


Telstra makes broadband warning: NBN laws 'create new monopoly'

  • Annabel Hepworth and Lauren Wilson
  • From: The Australian
  • February 28, 2011 12:00AM

TELSTRA says the Gillard government's proposed laws for the National Broadband Network threaten to wipe out the public benefits of the $36 billion project by allowing the NBN Co to monopolise new areas and strangle future competition.

Even as Telstra negotiates remaining hurdles to the $11bn deal to join the nation's biggest infrastructure project, it is demanding changes to the next set of NBN legislation, which sets the rules for the NBN Co building the national network.

Last night, the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the government was "keeping an open mind to any amendments" and was in discussions with Telstra about the legislation.





Anonymous said...

I wonder whether it has occurred to Ms Kerr that these records are already computerised; all the threats she worries about already exist. Why blame pcEHR?

Anonymous said...

I like fishing but I can not go to one river and catch all the fish.

I can rob a bank, but I can not physically rob all the banks by cracking one safe.

Not exact examples however you get my drift.


Dr David G More MB PhD said...

It is what is called creating a 'honey pot'. Can't you see the headlines when Ricky Ponting or Jennifer Hawkins have the PCEHR's cracked?