Monday, October 10, 2011

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 10th October, 2011.

Here are a few I have come across this week.
Note: Each link is followed by a title and a few paragraphs. 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

By far the best thing this week was to see the representatives of the medicines shopkeepers union bale out of their absurd plan to sell unproven side-effect modifying medicines to unsuspecting customers based on recommendations provided by their dispensing systems. No matter that most people won’t get the side-effect - let’s just increase our turnover and profit.
Other than this good news we have seen Minister Roxon coming out spruiking the PCEHR with at least some claims that might just be a bit wide of the mark - especially those on just how secure the planned system will be.
Of course I should mark the passing of Steve Jobs. He was clearly an important innovator and a provider of intuitively usable technologies. For this alone e-Health is probably in his debt.
Last I was again reminded that whenever you assign people a number you expose them to some risks. In this case it seems the Tax File Number system has not been as free of abuse as might be wished. The lesson of avoiding letting documents with your Tax File Number - and indeed, if you have one, your CHESS Shareholder Identity Number - go into the bin where they can be retrieved needs to be repeated often! Major risks can be avoided with a little care.
(A good trick is to have a permanent black ink marker and just write over the sensitive numbers before placing in the re-cycling!)
Note: Tomorrow I am going to start work on a submission on the planned PCEHR legislation. Any views via comments or e-mail are welcome.

Experts fear e-health privacy breach

  • by: Adam Cresswell, Health editor
  • From: The Australian
  • October 04, 2011 12:00AM
COMPUTER experts have expressed alarm over draft laws on how the federal government's $470 million electronic health records system will work, saying the technology to guarantee security does not exist, yet healthcare organisations will face stiff penalties for privacy breaches.
The draft legislation, released for public comment by federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon on Friday, shows hospitals, GP surgeries and other organisations will be responsible for ensuring the system can identify which individual staff members are accessing records at any given time.
The government has promised this capability, known as an audit trail, will be a key part of the system of personally controlled electronic health records (PCEHR), saying it will help deter unauthorised snooping by ensuring anyone who accesses medical files without a patient's permission can be quickly and easily identified.

Patient safety boost with e-health

Australia’s proposed new e-health system will improve security of medical records, rather than increase privacy concerns, the Federal Government believes.
In an article in today’s Australian Financial Review, Nicola Roxon, the Minister for Health and Ageing, said arguments that electronic records would lead to decreased safety were incorrect. 
“Electronic health records have the potential to save lives, time and money and make the health system much more efficient,” she said. “They can also make medical information much more secure and private.”

Roxon defends electronic health records system

Posted October 04, 2011 23:34:02
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has dismissed criticism from privacy groups about the Government's proposed electronic health records system.
The Australian Privacy Foundation and other computer experts say the Government's draft legislation does not provide sufficient privacy guarantees, will be difficult to implement, and that the system will be unusable.
Ms Roxon says the new system is well developed and will be a great improvement on the current situation.

Roxon swipes at privacy advocates

  • by: By Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 07, 2011 6:46PM
HEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon has been out spruiking her $500 million national e-health record system this week, along the way taking an unwarranted swipe at volunteer health consumer and privacy advocates who try to consult with her department on such initiatives.
In Hobart, Ms Roxon told ABC Radio that the Australian Privacy Foundation was refusing to get onboard with government plans to create a centralised database containing everyone’s medical information and then offer access to some 800,000 healthcare providers and staff members nationwide.
“We’re actually improving on the current system,” she said. “There are very few protections in place for paper records held in big institutions like hospitals, in general practices, in pathology labs.

Govt agencies escape e-health penalties

  • by: Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 06, 2011 6:09AM
LEGAL liability for medical record data breaches will fall on private-sector healthcare providers, while federal and state agencies will escape prosecution and large penalties to be imposed under proposed draft legislation for the personally controlled e-health record system.
General practitioners, private hospitals, medical centres, pathology labs and diagnostic imaging centres will all be expected to access patient files held in the $500 million PCEHR system when it commences next July, but they will bear the full brunt of fines up to $66,000 for each "inappropriate access" by a doctor or other employee.

Meanwhile, public hospitals and state-based facilities will have Crown immunity from prosecution over data breach offences.

Illegal e-records access to draw fines

Doctors and other health workers risk massive fines if they illegally access soon-to-be created e-health records, under proposed Federal Government legislation.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon outlined the draft laws, which show there would be fines of $13,200 for individuals and $66,000 for companies which unnecessarily accessed the e-health record of any patient.
“Electronic health records have the potential to save lives, time and money and make the health system more efficient,” Ms Roxon said in a statement.

Federal Govt sheds light on next round of e-health record funding

The Department of Health and Ageing has revealed what it do with the third tranche of PCEHR funding
The Federal Department of Health has revealed detailed plans for the third round of funding to be allocated to the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) next month for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) told Computerworld Australia that negotiations around the funding were expected to be completed shortly as the scope of NEHTA’s activities for the rest of the initiative were finalised, but could not yet disclose the figure.
According to the spokesperson, the next round of funding will support the management of delivery partners to complete the build of the system, to implement strategies to for change and take-up of the PCEHR, and to support the e-health sites in implementing and testing aspects of e-health record.

NEHTA proposes e-health standards stopgap

'Tiger teams' look to November deadline

The Federal Government's lead e-health transition body has proposed a new standards strategy that would speed up development of specifications underpinning the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR).
It would replace the current, seven-stage standards development process undertaken with Standards Australia, with a view to establishing specifications by the end of November.
In a standards and specifications document released Friday, the National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) said the current development process was comprehensive but slow and resulted in "considerable re-work and re-education being performed during the Working Draft Stage".

Collaboration leader VisiInc plans push into e-health

PERTH-BASED collaboration leader VisiInc plans to push into the e-health market with its $US16 million ($16.63m) purchase of US multimedia conferencing platform vendor VIA3.
VisiInc will add VIA3's advanced collaboration software -- featuring secure 3D file-sharing together with secure video and audio services -- to its Vistime communications suite.
Jacques Blandin, founder and chief executive of VisiInc, said the acquisition was timely because the platform addressed key concerns about e-health security.
"We aim to be a major player in the local e-health arena," he said. "We have some of the smartest technology."

VisiInc PLC National Research reveals Australians Embrace E-health Personal Health Records

Perth, Western Australia, October 04, 2011 - VisiInc PLC (VZJ) ( have released a National Australian survey showing public confidence in security will boost E-health uptake, just days after VisiInc announced their acquisition of VIA3.
The USD$16 million scrip deal to acquire USA company VIA3 will deliver a powerful combined technology of 3D real time collaboration, voice and video conferencing, an ultra-secure platform and marks a major push into Australian E-health market. The acquisition is timely with a national Australian opinion survey revealing that the uptake of E-health could be considerably higher if security issues are addressed.

Service streamlines medical data access

Australian medical software company Zedmed has signed insurance provider MLC as the second customer for its medical record exchange service. The MRE service allows authorised insurance agents to access and search medical information required to process claims or provide health insurance premium quotes.
Zedmed, owned by the Medical One Group which runs 11 doctors’ clinics, developed MRE just over two years ago and has previously signed up MetLife for the service. A further two insurance companies are also running pilots.
Martin Hoel, Zedmed client services manager, acknowledged that when the system was first launched “the market was not quite ready.”

Oracle fleshes out PCEHR software deal

By Suzanne Tindal, on October 3rd, 2011
Oracle has today detailed what systems it will use to support Accenture in the development of the backbone for the government's planned personally controlled e-health records (PCEHR) system.

Medical association concerned over PCEHR draft legislation

According to the industry body, the proposal fails to address the issue of availability of critical information for practitioners
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has raised concerns that the federal government’s released draft of legislation for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) still fails to address the availability of critical information for practitioners.
AMA federal vice president, Steve Hambleton, told Computerworld Australia the government’s nominated healthcare providers, which includes medical practitioners, nurses, aboriginal health practitioners and others, remained a concern for the system’s success.
“We’d prefer to start with medical practitioners to get used to the system and get it up and running and then widen it after that if it seems suitable,” Hambleton said.

GPs get prepared for e-health records

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has launched revised information security standards and a workbook to ensure GPs are meeting the minimum requirements
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has launched revised information security standards and a workbook in order to prepare GPs for the Federal Government’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).
RACGP National Standing Committee e-health chair, Dr John Bennett, told Computerworld Australia the revised standards are more comprehensive than the previous Computer Security Guidelines and have been broken into two components, one for information and the other as the workbook.
“The idea with the workbook is to make it easier for a practice to be able to use the information or recommendations contained in the standards and then to make it aligned to their practice,” Bennett said.

RACGP launches e-health security guide

Issues IT security standards to general practitioners.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has launched a new IT security standards guide to help its members keep practice and patient information secure.
The 43-page self-assessment guide (pdf) is the third edition of a document that was last published in 2005.
It contains a check list covering ten categories of IT security. These include appointing a computer security coordinator, documenting the role and training the person in question.
Security policies and procedures should be documented, the guide advises.

Harbinger of security warns national e-health system

THE vulnerability of Australia’s planned national e-health system to cyber attacks is not being taken seriously enough, according to a WA security academic.
The weakest points of this system are the individual healthcare providers, particularly the small primary care and specialist organisations which make up more than half the connections in the national e-health system.
ECU secau Security Research Centre senior lecturer Trish Williams says the initiative has multiple points of vulnerability that are unlikely to be fully realised until the system goes live.
The $466.7 million plan will digitise and integrate Australia’s patient record databases to allow much greater sharing of patient information, such as allergies, test results and medications, than the current “safe but not particularly useful” paper system.
Dr Williams says the integration of such a big and complex system is far more susceptible to attack than a decentralised paper one because of the communication between diverse healthcare providers, unlike banks where information is securely stored in one domain.
“The integration of individual systems creates greater system susceptibilities,” she says.

College unveils standards for telehealth and e-security

7th Oct 2011 Mark O’Brien
NEW standards for video consultations and information security have been released by the RACGP, giving GPs a framework to apply to the Medicare telehealth item numbers launched in July.
The college launched its new Standards for Video Consultations and Computer and Information Security Standards yesterday at the GP11 conference in Hobart.
In the absence of standards to abide by since the launch of the MBS items for telehealth, GPs had been advised by Medicare to simply ensure they were confident their method of delivering the service was capable of providing secure, reliable and private consultations.

Telehealth software for remote cochlear implant maintenance

THE EAR Science Institute of Australia is building software for remote mapping and analysis of cochlear implants.
The software will allow patients to plug their implants into their computer and have them tested by audiologists in real time. This will allow full use of telehealth software, and reduce the need for patients (especially those in remote areas) to visit ear centres for their implant maintenance.

Human Services taps new CIO

  • by: Fran Foo
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 06, 2011 6:00PM
THE Department of Human Services has tapped the services of former ANZ Bank Australia chief information officer Gary Sterrenberg as its new tech chief.
The department confirmed to The Australian that Mr Sterrenberg will start on October 24.
He will fill the slot left vacant by retired CIO and Infrastructure head John Wadeson.
Mr Wadeson has been a key player in the integration of Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support IT systems under a new look DHS as part of Labor's service delivery reform agenda.
Mr Sterrenberg joined ANZ in 2006 and worked in various roles, including head of IT and business partnerships, Retail.

Human Services appoints former ANZ CIO

The department appointed Gary Sterrenberg after the retirement of former CIO, John Wadeson
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has appointed a former ANZ Australia CIO, Gary Sterrenberg, after a four month search.
Sterrenberg will succeed retiring CIO, John Wadeson, who exited the role in September after five years with the department. Sterrenberg will commence the role on 24 October.
A DHS spokesperson said that Sterrenberg's history in the banking industry would be an asset as it involved significant work with numerous complex systems and was a customer-focused organisation.

GPs and pharmacists united on evidence-based medicines

Monday, 3 October, 2011 - 14:14
GPs and pharmacists agree that the good of the patient and evidence-based medicine should form the basis of all health care advice provided.
The Royal New Zealand College of GPs, the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, Pharmaceutical Society and General Practice New Zealand have agreed that a commercial initiative being employed in Australia to companion sell supplements with prescriptions would not be appropriate in New Zealand.
Blackmores has struck a deal with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, representing the owners of community pharmacies. Under the agreement, when a prescription is filled, a prompt in the pharmacy's computer will suggest staff discuss with the customer a Blackmores supplement designed to offset possible side effects of the drug being prescribed.

Pharmacists call for Blackmores deal scrapping

4th Oct 2011 Mark O’Brien
PHARMACISTS have appealed to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to scrap a deal with Blackmores involving computer prompts to ‘companion sell’ nutritional supplements together with certain prescription medications.
Pharmacist Coalition for Health Reform spokesperson Chris Walton said pharmacists had rejected the deal and it was now time for the Pharmacy Guild to scrap the plan.
“A Pharmacist Coalition poll of over 460 people has shown that 94% of community members, including pharmacists and pharmacists-in-training, disagree with the Blackmores deal and believe it undermines the professionalism of pharmacists,” he said.

Pharmacy Guild deal with Blackmores ends in tears

, by Melissa Sweet
Some extremely interesting conversations must have been occurring behind closed doors in pharmacy-land, in the wake of the disastrous deal between the Pharmacy Guild and Blackmores.
According to a Guild statement reproduced in full below, the deal – for pharmacists’ computer systems to prompt them to discuss Blackmores products with patients picking up a prescription for certain medications – will not go ahead in response “to the strong level of public concern”.

Brain implants tested in monkeys may help paralysed people

  • From: AFP
  • October 06, 2011 9:37AM
MONKEYS implanted with brain electrodes were able to see and move a virtual object and sense the texture of what they saw, a step forward in the quest to help the severely paralysed touch the outside world once more.
"Someday in the near future, quadriplegic patients will take advantage of this technology," said lead investigator Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University in North Carolina.
They will seek "not only to move their arms and hands and to walk again, but also to sense the texture of objects placed in their hands, or experience the nuances of the terrain on which they stroll with the help of a wearable robotic exoskeleton."

Vic healthcare to receive $15m tech boost

By Michael Lee, on October 4th, 2011
Victoria's healthcare system is set to benefit from technology with the launch of a $15 million Health Market Validation Program today, which will encourage the growth of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) by providing grants for healthcare-related technology projects.
Victorian Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips said that the three-stage program would result in better health outcomes, improved healthcare service delivery and economic benefits in Victoria.
The first stage of the program will identify requirements for healthcare, with health-focused public sector agencies specifying their needs, and the expected benefits in a Technology Requirement Specification (TRS).
In the second stage of the program, SMBs will be invited to submit proposals on how they can deliver on a TRS specified in the first stage.

Cerebral Palsy Alliance streamlines with new CMS

Weighed down with multiple websites and hundreds of forms and policies, the organisation now has one system to support and maintain
Juggling numerous websites and 600 different forms and adhering to almost 200 stringent policies was taking a toll on staff at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) and their ability to provide services to clients.
The organisation, headquartered in Sydney, provides services to about 4000 people; the majority of these services occur over the internet. CPA also conducts research into cerebral palsy, a condition that affects human movement.
CPA manager of communication design services, Robyn Cummins, said the organisation’s websites were becoming unmanageable for staff with the team working harder to maintain the sites and leaving no time for anything else.

Tax number is a fraudster's friend

Alexandra Smith
October 3, 2011
STOLEN tax file numbers have been used to lodge as many as 5000 fraudulent tax refunds worth $27 million in just three months, as identity criminals increasingly attempt to defraud government departments.
Since July, the Australian Taxation Office has reviewed about 68,000 claims, with refunds worth more than $285 million.
At least 5000 of those claims are suspected cases of identity crime, including stolen tax file numbers, the Tax Office confirmed.

Dumped computers exploited in overseas fraud

Natalie O'Brien
October 2, 2011
CRIMINAL networks are feeding off Australians' lust for new technology by skimming data from computers dumped in Africa and Asia - and using it for blackmail, fraud and identity theft.
They will pay as much as $200 on the black market for discarded computer hard drives, which they mine for bank details, credit card numbers and account passwords.
These hard drives are among the mountains of electronic waste earmarked for recycling here. Instead, they are illegally shipped to developing countries by operators seeking bigger profits.

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