Monday, February 15, 2016

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 15th February, 2016.

Here are a few I have come across the last week or so.
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

An interesting week with the biggie probably being plans to privatise the operations of the Medicare Payments System. This will be a huge and very risky project to say the least.

Evidence-based health informatics

February 11, 2016

Have we reached peak e-health yet?

Anyone who works in the e-health space lives in two contradictory universes.
The first universe is that of our exciting digital health future. This shiny gadget-laden paradise sees technology in harmony with the health system, which has become adaptive, personal, and effective. Diseases tumble under the onslaught of big data and miracle smart watches. Government, industry, clinicians and people off the street hold hands around the bonfire of innovation. Teeth are unfeasibly white wherever you look.
The second universe is Dickensian. It is the doomy world in which clinicians hide in shadows, forced to use clearly dysfunctional IT systems. Electronic health records take forever to use, and don’t fit clinical work practice. Health providers hide behind burning barricades when the clinicians revolt. Government bureaucrats in crisp suits dissemble in velvet-lined rooms, softly explaining the latest cost overrun, delay, or security breach. Our personal health files get passed by street urchins hand-to-hand on dirty thumbnail drives, until they end up in the clutches of Fagin like characters.
Both of these universes are real. We live in them every day. One is all upside, the other mostly down. We will have reached peak e-health the day that the downside exceeds the upside and stays there. Depending on who you are and what you read, for many clinicians, we have arrived at that point.

Govt eyes massive Medicare, health privatisation

EXCLUSIVE Andrew Probyn Federal Politics Editor
February 9, 2016, 1:20 am
Medicare, pharmaceutical and aged-care benefits would be delivered by the private sector under an extraordinary transformation of health services being secretly considered by the Federal Government.
The West Australian has learnt that planning for the ambitious but politically risky outsourcing of government payments is well-advanced, with a view to making it a key feature of Treasurer Scott Morrison’s first Budget in May.
To be put to the market a few weeks later, the $50 billion-plus outsourcing would be the first time the private sector has delivered a national service subsidised by the government.

Labor questions the tech upgrade of payments system as government considers outsourcing

February 10, 20168:27pm
Malcolm Farr
IT WAS a terrific system when put together in 1984, but the Turnbull Government believes the way it disperses billions in Medicare and other payments now should be brought firmly into the digital age.
This could cost as much as $1.5 billion, but the savings would be much greater.
And this could mean moving from what the Australian Medical Association has called “a sort of clunky exchange of cheques” to zapping money around on our mobile phones.
Most people would accept that. The problem is that the government is considering letting contracts to private companies to do this zapping.

Privatising Medicare's payment system gathers political momentum

Date February 13, 2016 - 12:15AM

Jane Lee

If there was ever any doubt about whether Australians still valued universal healthcare, Labor swiftly removed it in its successful campaign against the Abbott government's plan to introduce a $7 GP co-payment in 2014.
The plan, borne of a deeply unpopular Commission of Audit, was designed to help pay for Medicare, which then-health minister Peter Dutton insisted was financially unsustainable.
Voters so detested the idea that two years, a prime minister, Treasurer and Health Minister later, current Minister Sussan Ley still finds herself required to back-pedal from the co-payment and reassure voters the Coalition has learned its lesson, frequently telling reporters the co-payment is "dead, buried and cremated."
Privatising Medicare's payment system was another, less prominent brainchild of the Commission of Audit. After the dust had settled on the dumped co-payment, former health minister Peter Dutton asked his department to put out expressions of interest in a bid to test the market for providers in late 2014. Since then, a number of companies are understood to have been hovering in wait for a contract potentially worth billions of dollars.

Text messaging doubles medication adherence

5 February, 2016 
Text reminders double the odds of medication adherence among middle-aged patients with chronic diseases, report Australian researchers.
They reviewed 16 randomised controlled trials (involving 2742 patients) that used SMS reminders for chronic diseases including coronary artery disease, asthma, allergic rhinitis and epilepsy.
Five studies provided personalised messages, eight involved two-way communication, and eight sent daily reminders.
The pooled analysis shows text messaging increases the likelihood of adherence compared with usual care.
InterSystems, a global leader in health information technology, today announced that Bendigo Health is implementing the InterSystems TrakCare® unified healthcare information system as the electronic medical record (EMR) and clinical information system for the new Bendigo Hospital, set to open in early 2017.  TrakCare is scheduled to go live in late 2017. The Bendigo Hospital Project is the largest regional hospital development in the state of Victoria. Its aim is to create a world class digital hospital incorporating the latest design and technology solutions with InterSystems TrakCare chosen to support effective, efficient and consistent healthcare delivery. “The project will see a transition from mainly paper-based processes and records to a paper light, digital healthcare environment, said Rob McCathie, Program Manager Electronic Medical Records/Information Services at Bendigo Health. The system also needs to be flexible and enable leverage across the Loddon Mallee region if required.” TrakCare will provide comprehensive clinical functionality, including advanced clinical decision support, for almost all of the hospitals clinical departments. InterSystems will initially integrate Bendigo Healths existing pathology, radiology, pharmacy and maternity systems with TrakCare, with pharmacy and maternity scheduled to be phased out and replaced with TrakCare. TrakCare will also integrate Bendigo Healths existing patient administration system, with an option to replace it with TrakCare.

A brief guide to the health informatics research literature

February 8, 2016
Every year the body of research evidence in health informatics grows. To stay on top of that research, you need to know where to look for research findings, and what the best quality sources of it are. If you are new to informatics, or don’t have research training, then you may not know where or how to look. This page is for you.
There are a large number of journals that publish only informatics research. Many mainstream health journals will also have an occasional (and important) informatics paper in them. Rather than collecting a long list of all of these possible sources, I’d like to offer the following set of resources as a ‘core’ to start with.
(There are many other very good health informatics journals, and their omission here is not meant to imply they are not also worthwhile. We just have to start somewhere. If you have suggestions for this page I really would welcome them, and I will do my best to update the list).

Inside BloodNet: Australia's real-time blood database

One national system tracks the country's critical blood stores.

By Allie Coyne
Feb 11 2016 10:07AM
Australia's National Blood Authority has created a single interface linking up information systems used in hospitals and pathology labs across the country to provide a real-time view of the nation's blood stores, which has seen it cut blood wastage by $10 million annually.
The project has been two years in the making. It surfaced from a drive to enable better management and visibility of the national blood supply and therefore reduce wastage, which is currently estimated to cost the country $30 million each year.
The authority also hoped the platform would allow the NBA and labs to better respond to emergencies - like the 2008 blood shortage that caused elective surgery in Australia to shut down for a week.
To get such a significant undertaking up and running, the authority first needed to develop a system that could handle the automated receipt and processing of real-time feeds from each laboratory's information system.

How 'mind-controlled' bionic devices could help quadriplegics walk

10 February 2016
The development of “mind-controlled” bionic devices moved another step closer today with the publication of a Nature Biotechnology paper describing how a tiny, 3cm-long stent containing 12 electrodes could one day help people living with spinal cord injury to walk with the power of thought.
The device, called the “stentrode”, is inserted into the jugular vein in the neck and pushed up the vein until it reaches the brain’s motor cortex, which is responsible for muscle activity.
I’ve been part of the 39-person team developing and testing the device, and we’re now planning a clinical trial next year in Victoria.

'Bionic spinal cord' trial for humans

February 9, 20163:13am
By Margaret Scheikowski AAP
'Bionic spinal cord' trial for humans
A "revolutionary" device implanted in a brain blood vessel may one day enable people with spinal cord injuries to walk again, say Melbourne researchers.
Their limbs won't be reactivated, but the person's direct thought may be able to control equipment that can move the limbs.
The device is a minimally invasive brain machine interface - a bionic implant that translates thought into action.
It consists of a stent-based electrode, stentrode, which is implanted within a blood vessel in the brain.

Slow internet stymies support for rural GPs

10 February 2016
A VALUABLE web tool to help rural GPs cope with work-related stress is being held back by sluggish internet.
Nearly half of rural GPs report work-related distress, but support groups can be difficult to attend because of distance constraints.
To help bridge this gap, Australian researchers tested the effectiveness of running support sessions online.
They ran Balint groups, in which doctors meet to discuss challenging patient scenarios, for 13 GPs and eight general registrars via an online videoconferencing platform over eight fortnightly sessions.

This app puts orthopaedic guidelines in a GP's hand

11 February 2016
THE American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has developed a number of apps, and their newest provides access to the AAOS clinical practice guidelines.
The development of the Ortho­Guidelines app received funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the US and subsequently has been made available free for download.
The home page accesses a menu on the guidelines grouped by topic, strength of recommendation, or stage of care, as well as searched by keyword.
Although these guidelines are aimed at orthopaedic surgeons, much of the information contained on each of the topics is also of use in general practice.

Artificial intelligence and the future of hospitals

February 10, 2016 | By Zack Budryk
Healthcare already has its hands full with rapid shifts in the status quo, but an even more dramatic change could be on the way: robotic doctors powered by artificial intelligence or AI.
What sounds like science fiction is already poised to take other industries by storm in the form of innovations such as self-driving cars, according to The Conversation. Patients will likely be apprehensive; after all, even advanced technology is far from foolproof. But like self-driving cars, medical robots don't have to be 100 percent reliable--they just need to be more reliable than humans, the article notes.

Nurse allegedly assaulted after watchdog employee used database to find her

Exclusive: Breach at Australia’s health practitioner regulator reveals flaws in handling of personal data and ‘shakes confidence’ in medical complaints system
Medical professionals are raising concerns after a series of data breaches at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Photograph: Andres Rodriguez/Alamy
A nurse was allegedly assaulted by an employee of Australia’s health practitioner regulator, who used his credentials to access the agency’s database and track down her home address and phone number.
The security breach is one of several Guardian Australia has uncovered at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), the body responsible for protecting the public by investigating complaints against healthcare practitioners.

Biomed fund set to turn a buck

  • The Australian
  • February 8, 2016 12:00AM

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation push will be cemented this year with the $500 million biomedical translation to market fund set to make its first investments through a scheme designed to return a profit to the government.
Innovation and Science Australia chairman Bill Ferris will today outline the fine details of the fund at briefings in Sydney and Melbourne.
Mr Ferris said bio and medical technology would be one of the highest growth and profitable investment opportunities Australia had in the next couple of decades.
“The yellow to green light is now flickering on for professional investors to get involved,” he said.

NSW govt hires consultants to help stop IT project blowouts

Follows ongoing LMBR headache.

By Juha Saarinen
Feb 8 2016 9:05AM
The NSW Baird government has hired consultants to develop a best-practice framework for handling ICT projects following the long-running fiasco of the Education LMBR overhaul.
The Australian arm of Boston Consulting Group was recently awarded the contract, which has an estimated value of $863,500 for just over three months to March 30.
It has been asked to develop a "strategic, whole-of-government framework for best practice ICT project delivery" for the NSW government.
This will provide clear guidance for ICT investments focusing on state priorities, and will improve the identification of benefits as well as the management and reporting of funded projects, the state said.

Day 2: eHealth

Utilising Technology to Reduce Risk for better health

State and federal governments driven by decreases in funding, massive cost blowouts, extreme overtime, adverse media coverage, legal challenges, a push to deliver efficiency and many more issues are looking to technology to overcome the challenges of overloaded system.
Technology and the implementation of better systems is able to deliver massive cost savings.
eHealth records are expected to deliver improvements to health budgets in reducing medical errors, prescription errors, medicine conflicts, doctor shopping, and more. The benefits from these systems are not simply tied to hospital systems, but also through to local doctors, pharmacies, PBS and more.

Ovum ‘encouraged’ by NBN progress

Research analyst firm Ovum says the growth in the number of  ‘premises ready for service’ from the nbn is encouraging, with figures released by NBN Co on Friday showing the number of premises has more than doubled in 2015 to 1.67 million, with growth accelerating in 2H15.
Commenting on the release of nbn's half yearly results by CEO Bill Morrow, Ovum Australia senior telecoms consultant, Craig Skinner, said, "This growth rate is encouraging, especially considering the fibre-to-the-node service has only just come on line, and the HFC based service is yet to launch commercially.”
“NBN also announced today (Friday) that it has contracted 10 network partners to build its fibre network. These build agreements with contractors are vital to the NBN keeping its network build on track.

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