Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 17th 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

Really a pretty quiet week but you can be sure that under the surface we are seeing all sorts of nonsense going on with policy incoherence and a lack of practical, pragmatic leadership. Not that you heard it here first but I suspect we all now know a lot of this will end badly.
Seems like a good week to remind readers of the blog of Croakey - a useful source of unsponsored and un-tainted information on what is going on in the health sector. Some really interesting stuff is found here.

Panic to meet Nicola Roxon's e-health deadline

A PLAN to ram through technical specifications to meet the deadline for a national e-health records system is flawed and threatens financial problems for the local medical software industry.
Documents released by the National e-Health Transition Authority show it wants to bypass the usual standards-setting process via "tiger teams" that have one month to come up with 149 "specifications" for the $500 million personally controlled record rollout.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has repeatedly said the PCEHR will be available to all Australians who want one by July 1 next year.

Patients forgotten in setting healthcare standards

STANDARDS are critical to any system that involves federation among large numbers of organisations.
In some circumstances, there may be a dominant player that can set standards and force everyone else to follow them. Customs, for example, forced change in the import and export sectors 20 years ago to its own benefit, as well as the considerable benefit of others.
That option won't work in healthcare, which is the most complex of all sectors.
It comprises very large, large, medium, small and micro organisations -- and many of each size.
These thousands of organisations have highly varied backgrounds and orientations.
They have varying business models, from government, through semi-government to government-funded, to very much private sector.

We’re not obsessive, civil libertarians tell Roxon

CIVIL libertarians have hit back at Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s comments labelling privacy and civil liberties groups as obsessive with regard to their fears of the risks of the government’s personally controlled e-health records (PCEHR) system.
Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) today renewed calls for Ms Roxon to improve the planned safeguards to ward against data theft and patient records being accessed by those without appropriate permissions.
Answering media questions last week regarding the Privacy Foundation’s fears, Ms Roxon urged the foundation to embrace the possibilities of new technology and suggested the electronic records were likely to be more secure than traditional paper based records.
“We're seeing what is, I think, a borderline obsession that if you use new technology that that's going to create a risk,” said Ms Roxon.

Doctors go mobile at Barwon Health

  • by: Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 13, 2011 12:00AM
GEELONG's Barwon Health Hospital will host the first Australian implementation of Cisco's new Virtualisation eXperience Infrastructure (VXI ), with rollout already underway in its intensive care unit.
It is part of a deal that will see Victoria's South West Alliance of Rural Health (SWARH) install Cisco's virtualisation and collaboration technology in 180 public and private healthcare sites located across some 60,000 square kilometres.
At the same time, Cisco and Dimension Data will take over the operational and support roles, as SWARH outsources its ICT risk and management burden.
Barwon deputy chief executive Paul Cohen said the hospital is focused on making clinicians' jobs easier, and is reaping the benefit of earlier work that has put Geelong and the region at the forefront of e-health adoption.

Virtualization, thin clients to mobilise healthcare at rural hospital in Victoria

South West Alliance of Rural Health will rollout Cisco virtualization infrastructure across its 13 organisations starting with the largest, Barwon Health
he South West Alliance of Rural Heath (SWARH) has done a deal with Cisco for the provision of its Virtualization Experience Infrastructure to improve the workflow and collaboration throughout its 13 organisations.
The SWARH, which encompasses a mix of public health agencies, non-government organisations and medical clinics, covers an area of 60,000 square kilometres across Victoria with 180 sites.
SWARH CIO, Garry Druitt, said the alliance, which has 4000 phones (to be increased to 8000 in coming months) and 4000-5000 desktops, had been an early adopter of the platform because it needed the solution.

Vic doctors sign on for teleconferencing

By Luke Hopewell, on October 13th, 2011
A council of rural Victorian healthcare providers has signed on with Cisco to wire up new virtualisation and teleconferencing services to support its IT and e-health operations.
The South West Alliance of Rural Health (SWARH) is comprised of over 15 facilities over 60,000 square kilometres in rural Victoria, and has teamed up with Cisco and Dimension Data to deploy the teleconferencing company's new Virtualisation Experience Infrastructure offering (VXI) to improve communication and patient care.

Dummy run as student nurses put their skills to the test

Andrew Stevenson
October 11, 2011
LARS is a Norwegian with bad hair, an ill-defined back story and chest pains. He's also a $100,000 mannequin whose vital signs - and even his conversation - can be remotely controlled to keep student nurses Alison Sanders and Karla Aguiba on their game.
They spend less time in hospitals but the University of Technology, Sydney, is hoping when their students nurses arrive to deal with real patients and real problems their extensive interaction with Lars and his like will mean they are much better prepared.
''I've got some pain in my chest. It's right in the middle. It feels like someone's sitting on me,'' Lars tells his carers. ''What are you doing to me?''
After running through some tests the nurses call for a doctor.

Labor's e-health program overbudget

  • by: Karen Dearne
  • From: Australian IT
  • October 14, 2011 12:00AM
THE federal Health department overspent its e-health implementation budget by $5 million in 2010-11 due to timing of contracts with "key delivery partners" prior to the end of the financial year.
Its actual spending for the period totalled $142.2m.
The department says it has “substantially met” its target for the design and development of infrastructure for the $500m personally controlled e-health record system, due to be operational by next July 1.

Paper files still safer than electronic records: experts

10th Oct 2011 Mark O’Brien
EXPERTS have defended the security of patient information held in hard copy general practice files after Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government’s personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system would be more secure than traditional paper records.
The minister said last week there were “very few protections” for paper records in general practice, with a spokesperson later telling MO e-health records would be more secure because they would be subject to a range of mechanisms to protect privacy.

Telehealth improves rural stroke care

Telehealth can be used within acute stroke care to “bridge the gap of rural-metropolitan inequality”, a Victorian pilot scheme has found.
A telehealth system known as Telestroke, trialled for a year between an urban and a rural hospital in Victoria, saw an increase in the rate of thrombolysis given to rural patients, according to a study (link) published in the Internal Medicine Journal (online Oct 7)
With many rural patients being denied thrombolysis due to a neurologist shortage, the trial involved 24 patients presenting to the North East Wangaratta Hospital with acute onset non-convulsive neurological symptoms, the chance to have a video consultation with a neurologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital - around 235km away.

Hospitals now safer as mistake rate drops

Mark Metherell
October 14, 2011
DOCTORS may be less likely to operate on the wrong patient in hospitals these days, although there is a slightly higher, if small, risk of patients being left with surgical items in their bodies after operations.
A national hospital hazard checklist instituted five years ago shows that serious hospital mistakes and adverse events have fallen overall from a total of 183 incidents in public and private hospitals to 134.
Procedures involving wrong patient or body part resulting in death or permanent injury totalled 79 in 2005-06 but 10 in 2009-10. Surgical instruments or other material being left in the patient after surgery requiring re-operation numbered 44 cases in both years.

New director general for QLD Health

Dr Tony O’Connell has been appointed director general of Queensland Health, effective immediately.
An intensive care specialist, Dr O’Connell has 35 years of frontline experience in hospitals.
Note: The relevance here is that this appointment is also to NEHTA Board

Artificial muscles to push bots in bodies

A team of Australian scientists has developed artificial muscles which it says will make it easier for tiny nano-robots to be used inside the human body.
  • AAP (AAP)
  • 14 October, 2011 09:47
A team of Australian scientists has developed artificial muscles which it says will make it easier for tiny nano-robots to be used inside the human body.
The group, based at the University of Wollongong in NSW, says the muscles are small and strong enough to push the nanobots along the bloodstream.
The use of nanobots in diagnosing and treating medical conditions such as cancer has received publicity over the past few years, but working out how to move them through the body has been a hurdle until now.

Fantastic voyage comes a tiny step closer

Deborah Smith
October 14, 2011 - 11:35AM
NSW researchers have developed tiny artificial muscles that can twist like those in the trunk of an elephant or the arm of an octopus.
Made from a tough, flexible yarn spun from carbon nanotubes, they could speed up the design of futuristic nanobots that can travel through the body detecting and treating disease.
Geoff Spinks, of the University of Wollongong, said a big hurdle to the development of medical nanobots was how to propel them  in the bloodstream.

NBN falls behind schedule

Lucy Battersby
October 12, 2011
Telstra deal and construction contracts blamed.
The rollout of the national broadband network is behind schedule because of delays in striking a deal with Telstra and issuing construction contracts.
And an inquiry will be held into the need for large battery units to be installed at all homes and businesses connected to NBN Co's fibre, following complaints from residents testing the broadband network.
NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley yesterday confirmed the rollout was ''several months'' behind because regulatory and commercial negotiations had taken longer than expected.

Inquire into superclinics: Australian Medical Association

THE Auditor-General has been asked to investigate the government's GP Superclinics after the government moved to axe two of the clinics and revealed only 17 of the promised 64 were operational.
The Australian Medical Association, which opposes the government-funded clinics, yesterday wrote to the spending watchdog asking it to investigate the program.
"It is clear that there are huge problems with the program and the public needs answers about what is happening with a significant investment. I have today written to the Auditor General urging a thorough audit of the Program by the Australian National Audit Office, Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said.

FOI Act scores well back in the pack

October 10, 2011
The Commonwealth FOI act scored 85 out of a possible 150 points in a study that assessed 89 countries.
AUSTRALIA'S freedom of information law has been ranked 39th among 89 countries in the first study comparing the adequacy of laws designed to open up the workings of government.
The 30-year-old Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act, which was radically overhauled in 2009 and 2010, scored 85 out of a possible 150 points in a joint European and Canadian study that assessed 61 indicators for each country's law.
The Right to Information survey released this week looked only at the laws themselves, not at how well they work in practice, which explains some surprising results.
October 10, 2011

Government Aims to Build a ‘Data Eye in the Sky’

More than 60 years ago, in his “Foundation” series, the science fiction novelist Isaac Asimov invented a new science — psychohistory — that combined mathematics and psychology to predict the future.
Now social scientists are trying to mine the vast resources of the Internet — Web searches and Twitter messages, Facebook and blog posts, the digital location trails generated by billions of cellphones — to do the same thing.
The most optimistic researchers believe that these storehouses of “big data” will for the first time reveal sociological laws of human behavior — enabling them to predict political crises, revolutions and other forms of social and economic instability, just as physicists and chemists can predict natural phenomena.

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