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."

Monday, March 30, 2020

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 30 March, 2020.

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

A very busy week for the Government(s) on the COVID-19 front but rather less news on the Digital Health front except where the two intersect. We are seeing innovation globally to respond to the crisis – like James Dyson inventing a whole new ventilator in 15 days!

Interactive dashboards: How COVID-19 is affecting the world

The tools offer a deeper understanding of the growth rate and the impact of prevention strategies
26th March 2020
As COVID-19 takes hold across Australia and the world it has become increasingly important to be able to track the virus's spread and impact.
These dashboards use data collated by Johns Hopkins University, US, that include WHO statistics, to help you do just that.
If you're viewing on a desktop computer, click the buttons on the bottom right to expand and explore the dashboards.
Thursday, 26 March 2020 09:12

Singapore open-sources app for tracking coronavirus contacts

The Singapore Government has announced that it would provide the source code for an app known as TraceTogether which uses Bluetooth technology to track people who have been within two meters of coronavirus patients.
The app was launched last Saturday by Dr Janil Puthucheary, senior minister of state at Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information.
In a statement on Facebook, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Monday that the source code for the app, which has been developed by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and the Ministry of Health, would be made freely available.
Dr Balakrishnan, who is also the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, said: "We believe that making our code available to the world will enhance trust and collaboration in dealing with a global threat that does not respect boundaries, political systems or economies. Together, we can make our world safer for everyone."

Test, trace, track: how Singapore is winning the virus war

By Nicola Smith
March 23, 2020 — 3.59pm
Singapore, along with Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, has emerged as a global leader in the fight against coronavirus and it is not too late for Western countries to adopt some of their successful measures.
Despite its strong trade ties, its proximity to China and its function as a major airline transit hub, the city-state of 5.7 million has, to date, kept the virus in check. It has done this through aggressive testing and intensive tracing of carriers.
The use of sophisticated technology to track the movements of carriers of COVID-19 and clear public messaging have been highly effective in containing the virus.

Medicare coverage boost for telehealth

By Dana McCauley
March 24, 2020 — 12.59am
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has agreed to expand access to Medicare-funded telehealth, including for mental health, after practitioners complained that restrictions were putting them and their patients at risk.
Mr Hunt said the government was working on a plan to enable all patients to be able to access Medicare-funded online or telephone consultations "for all patients, with or without COVID-19, to see any general practitioner, medical specialist, mental health or allied health professional during the COVID-19 health emergency."
It comes after GPs complained of being inundated with "anxious" calls from patients with cold and flu symptoms who could not access tests, seeking medical advice over the phone - but unable to access Medicare rebates for phone consultations without a diagnosis.
Currently, only patients who are required to self-isolate due to travel or exposure to a confirmed case, or patients considered vulnerable - including those who have COVID-19 - are able to access the Medicare rebates for telehealth.

Expanded telehealth items for GPs

Vulnerable GPs can now use telehealth for all consultations with all their patients amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Joint statement from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt MP, AMA President Dr Tony Bartone, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon, and Principal Medical Advisor to the Department of Health Professor Michael Kidd.

NewsGP Writers – 23 March, 2020
We thank and acknowledge all of Australia’s vital healthcare workers for their ongoing commitment and dedication to providing Australians with the healthcare they need during this unprecedented time.

The Government has been consulting extensively with the Australian Medical Association (AMA), RACGP, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACCRM), Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), and other key peak bodies and members of the medical profession and health professions to ensure Medicare is responsive to the challenges of COVID-19.

Amendments to Medicare are being implemented quickly, but also in a staged and proportionate way to ensure critical health services can continue to operate, and the integrity of our health system is maintained.

The Government is also consulting with the AMA, RACGP, ACCRM, RDAA, and other critical parts of the medical profession during the course of this week to further expand our telehealth response.

Planned telehealth expansion welcome, but must look beyond doctors alone

MEDIA RELEASE 23 March 2020
Four leading health organisations have urged the Government to expand telehealth to nurses to reduce COVID-19 infection risks and support care of chronically ill people at home.
Today’s ‘stage 3’ announcement by Health Minister Greg Hunt allows vulnerable general practitioners and health professionals currently authorised to use telehealth item numbers to use telehealth for all consultations with all their patients.
‘Given South Korea has shown how effective telehealth can be in responding to COVID-19, this is most welcome’, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.
‘We also welcome the government’s intention to move to “Stage 4”, involving four doctors organisations in co-designing “best practice expansion of telehealth items for all patients, with or without COVID-19, to see any general practitioner, medical specialist, mental health or allied health professional during the COVID-19 health emergency’.

Telehealth to open up to all Australians

Bulk-billing of Telehealth services, previously only available to vulnerable Australians such as the elderly, will now be open to everyone from Monday,
Finbar O'Mallon
Australian Associated Press March 24, 20205:47pm
Australians will be able to bulk-bill phone or video hook ups with their doctors from next week as health authorities work to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Telehealth services will be available to the entire population, allowing all Australians to consult remotely with general practitioners, specialists, and mental health and allied health professionals.
"That is an extremely important development," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday.
"Very important to stress, however, that a very large proportion of GP services of course require face-to-face treatment."
25 March 2020

Practical tips for doing telehealth well

Posted byPenny Durham
As the government prepares for a massive expansion of Medicare rebates for telehealth during the COVID-19 crisis, there are some technical and medicolegal practicalities that all doctors should be aware of.
Currently all GPs who are particularly vulnerable to illness – 70+, Indigenous and 50+, pregnant, chronically ill, immunocompromised and new parents – may claim a Medicare rebate for remotely consulting with any patients.
The item numbers corresponding to 3, 23, 36 and 44 are 91790, 91800, 91801 and 91802 for videoconferencing, and 91795, 91809, 91810 and 91811 for telephone consultations “when videoconferencing is not available”.
Doctors in isolation should just use their usual provider number for COVID-19-related consultations.

WhatsApp used to confirm coronavirus diagnoses

The Iranian Society of Radiology set up the private group to help cope with rising cases and a lack of testing kits
27th March 2020
Rising infection rates and deaths, and a limited supply of testing kits, has led one country to turn to WhatsApp to secure second opinions on COVID-19 cases.
The Iranian Society of Radiology, which set up the private group, says it has allowed doctors to triage patients within two hours.
The society enlisted 11 volunteer radiologists — nine from Iran, one from Canada and one from the US — to triage patients based on CT scans taken by physicians and radiologists throughout Iran who were encouraged to use teleradiology for second opinions.
Anonymised CT Image files or video clips were uploaded to the WhatsApp group, according to the team's report in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.
Wednesday, 25 March 2020 12:53

HealthMatch releases COVID-19 clinical trials tracker

Australian clinical trials startup HealthMatch has released a global COVID-19 clinical trials tracker to map developments on research breakthroughs around the world.
HealthMatch, which helps researchers run clinical trials for oncology and chronic conditions, is also opening its platform to help recruit coronavirus trial patients for free to expedite COVID-19 research in Australia.
Writing on the HealthMatch website, company Founder and CEO Manuri Gunawardena said that with the coronavirus pandemic gripping the nation- and with global trials now well underway - the importance of clinical testing is urgent, and for many countries, critical.
“In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, HealthMatch will provide patient recruitment services free to all organisations (public and private) for COVID-19 research. This includes pharmaceutical, biotechnology, NFP, Universities, Government and other organisations unified in the fight against COVID-19,” Gunawardena said.
Thursday, 26 March 2020 10:47

UniSA developing 'pandemic drone' along with Canadian firm

The University of South Australia has partnered with Canadian company to develop a "pandemic drone" that can remotely monitor and detect people with infectious respiratory conditions.
In a statement, UniSA said the drone would have a special sensor and computer vision system that could monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates.
It would also be able to detect sneezing and coughing in crowds, office, airports, cruise ships, aged care homes and other places where people congregate or work.
The university team is led by Professor Javaan Chahl (below. right), defence chair of Sensor Systems, and it will work with Draganfly, a North American drone technology company to begin the task of recruiting customers from the commercial, medical and government sectors.

More My Health Record apps to help Australians manage their health

26 March, 2020: The Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) has today enabled more mobile apps to connect to the My Health Record so that consumers have more choices about the ways they get real time access to their health information.
Australia’s need for a connected healthcare system is now greater than ever. One that’s accessible, progressive and – importantly – secure.
The My Health Record allows consumers and their healthcare providers to access information about their medicines, pathology test results, imaging reports, hospital visits, and summaries of their health status. Consumers can currently access their My Health Record through four mobile apps available through app stores, or through MyGov.
Over 22.7 million Australians now have a My Health Record and these records contain over 1.8 billion documents which are increasing every day. The Agency paused new apps from connecting to the My Health Record during its expansion of the My Health Record to opt-out. At the time, there was significant interest from innovators to offer apps that connected to the My Health Record.
MyGov is currently experiencing technical difficulties and access to My Health Record may be intermittent or limited at this time. Please note: the outage is not affecting healthcare provider access to My Health Record.

Electronic scripts for GPs here within weeks, says Govt

After years of delays, GPs have been promised a solution in response to the COVID-19 crisis
23rd March 2020
It has taken a pandemic to get there, but the Federal Government says it will finally give GPs the option of ditching paper scripts for totally electronic prescribing.
In an attempt to shift patients from as many unnecessary face-to-face consults as possible, the government has rolled out new MBS items for telehealth.
And it is already funding pharmacies to make home deliveries to high-risk patients — including the elderly, those in isolation, the immunosuppressed, and those with chronic conditions.
But under the new system, which the Department of Health says it will deliver in eight weeks' time, patients will be able to consult a GP online, and will receive a web link by email or text — called a “token” — which they can forward to a pharmacist of their choice.

A neat COVID-19 interim fix for electronic prescribing


Various GP groups, including the RACGP, are asking the state and federal governments to temporarily relax legislation around the current e-prescription infrastructure, to allow doctors to prescribe for COVID-19 and self-isolated patients using telehealth.

This would allow doctors to send their patients and electronically generated barcode, which the patients can send to a pharmacy to get scripts filled without leaving home.
Although the legislation for paper scripts has changed to allow electronic scripts to be used via a patient’s mobile phone, none of the patient management systems has done the development to allow their systems to use a new patient electronic token system and exchange being run by Medisecure and eRX.
Some of the major patient management system vendors have been asked to expedite their development amid the COVID-19 crisis, but development times and costs are impractical given the timelines to get a system up and running which would cater for home-bound patients.
The alternative interim system being proposed by the GP groups is simple:
  • During a Telehealth consult, a GP prints a prescription as normal. The barcode on the script (or a copy of the whole script) is sent to a patient via whatever means (email,SMS, or image capture during video consultation).
  • The barcode is automatically sent via the script exchanges to all pharmacies already using the current system.
  • The patient just then needs to identify themselves and send the barcode to their nearest pharmacy which can deliver.
In order for the proposal to be approved, all states and the federal government will need to come to agreement.  This has now been facilitated by Canberra’s  ‘war cabinet’ footing where all state health ministers and the federal minister meet each day via the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
23 March 2020

Vulnerable GPs can now bulk-bill all appointments from home

Posted by Penny Durham
Medicare-funded telehealth has been expanded to include health practitioners who are vulnerable to COVID-19, and will soon cover all patients and practitioners.
Doctors who are pregnant, 70 and over, indigenous and 50 and over, have an infant under 12 months at home, or are immunocompromised or have a chronic health condition, are now eligible to bulk bill telehealth for all their consultations, it was announced yesterday.
This reflects the original patient population for whom phone or video consultations were eligible to be bulk-billed.
A “whole-of-population” response is expected by the end of the week.
This “stage four” telehealth expansion “will look to the best-practice expansion of telehealth items for all patients, with or without COVID-19, to see any general practitioner or medical specialist during the COVID-19 health emergency,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said, in a joint release with the AMA, RACGP, and the Health Department’s principal medical adviser Dr Michael Kidd.

ACT Health goes live with real-time hospital bed tracking

Thursday, 19 March, 2020
Bed management and capacity planning is a crucial part of Australia’s preparation for accumulating cases of COVID-19. For this reason, ACT Health has partnered with Australian health informatics company Alcidion to gain real-time visibility of patient flow and bed allocation.
ACT Health will implement Alcidion’s technologies — Miya Precision, Patientrack and Smartpage — at Canberra Hospital and The University of Canberra Hospital, covering more than 600 beds. Using Alcidion’s platform, the hospitals will have a site-wide view of their patient flow to ensure clinicians are aware of the current patient and bed status to optimise care.
Graphic dashboards based on smart technology will support proactive patient management, while coordinated online bed management will contribute to patient flow and align allocations so patients receive optimal care.

Robotics companies help with COVID-19 response  

Tuesday, 24 March, 2020
The Robot Report has reported that robotics companies have been responding to public health concerns around the coronavirus pandemic.
“Reducing the risk of person-to-person transmission is of the highest priority for government and health officials,” said Rocos Global Ltd. The Auckland, New Zealand-based company’s Rocos Robot Operations Platform is designed to enable developers and users to connect, monitor and control fleets of robots.
Rocos pointed out that while no one robot can do it all, there are robots that can help with informing and entertaining people, moving patients, and cleaning and disinfecting areas.
Some of the challenges facing robotics start-ups that want to serve the healthcare market include central management of growing robotic fleets, providing the right levels of support and improving collaboration among robots and with human staffers and patients, Rocos said.

Spread telehealth to stop spread of coronavirus

The demand for isolation and social distancing forced by coronavirus makes it imperative for telehealth to be supported across as many accredited health services as possible, the Consumers Health Forum said today.
“We urge the Government to act on the advice of doctors, nurses and allied health practitioners and expand Medicare to cover telehealth services so clinicians can provide maximum help at minimal risk to many more patients and not just to known coronavirus risks,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said.
“The current limited availability of Medicare-funded telehealth services to specified patient groups represents a lost opportunity to reduce the hazards for clinicians and patients of direct physical consultation and of unnecessary patient travel, while encouraging consumes to seek vital attention.
“We have written to Health Minister, Greg Hunt, late last week welcoming Government telehealth measures announced so far to contain the spread of the virus and to support the community with regular, clear information as the situation rapidly evolves and changes.

‘Uber for pharmacies’ launches

Shares in ASX-listed tech provider MedAdvisor are up by almost 25 per cent, after the company announced a 'Uber for pharmacies', allowing the likes of TerryWhite Chemmart and Amcal to deliver medications to patients during the COVID-19 crisis.
MedAdvisor chief executive Robert Read said his company's software will facilitate pharmacists' ability to claim their part of $25m in new federal government funding to support pharmacist delivery services.
“Fast-tracking the launch of MedAdvisor’s medication home delivery service is necessary to help reduce panic buying, relieve pressure on pharmacists, protect patients from unnecessary exposure, and provide access to critical medications," he said.
He added that over 30 per cent of MedAdvisor’s app users are over 60-years-old and therefore deemed high-risk patients if they were to contract COVID-19.
27 March 2020

How telehealth can ensure continuity of business during COVID-19

During this pandemic, the government has recognised telehealth as a critical tool in protecting the wellbeing of patients and doctors.
The federal health minister has been rapidly increasing access to telehealth services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On 13th March new MBS items were applied to high risk patients and those diagnosed with COVID-19 or in self-isolation. Then new items enabled “at-risk” GPs to bulk bill telehealth for all consultations with their patients in a step to protect the vulnerable members of our medical workforce.
From 30th March, the federal government will be expanding the eligibility criteria for all patients, with or without COVID-19, to receive funded access to a general practitioner or medical specialist via a telehealth platform during the COVID-19 health emergency.  As patients adopt self-isolation and even face imminent lockdown, the remote functionality of telehealth apps is attractive to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 whilst seeking the clinical support they need.
27 March 2020

Podcast: How to roll out telehealth in just a few days

Posted by Felicity Nelson
Telehealth just became the number one priority for many GP clinics due to the COVID-19 crisis.
But it’s daunting to get telehealth up and running in just a few days when you’ve never so much as heard of a VPN before, you don’t even have a headset and you’ve lost your Skype login details.
Don’t stress, we’ve produced a quick guide to telehealth. Listen in!
This podcast was recorded during the week starting 16 March.

DDoS attack blamed for myGov issues

By Justin Hendry on Mar 23, 2020 2:05PM

Portal maxes out concurrent user limits.

A “significant distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack” has been blamed for problems with the federal government’s online services portal myGov.
Government services minister Stuart Robert made the assertion on Monday afternoon after thousands of Australians were locked out while attempting to access welfare services.
He said that the significant traffic was blocking users from accessing the site, which had been updated by Services Australia over the weekend in preparation for the influx. 
“We’ve been preparing for a large influx of Australians who haven’t yet used Centrelink service before,” he said.

myGov crashes amid welfare rush

By Justin Hendry on Mar 23, 2020 11:03AM

Australians asked to try again later.

The federal government’s online services portal myGov has crashed as thousands of Australians flocked to Centrelink in the wake of a coronavirus induced economic slowdown.
The problems started on Monday morning, with numerous users reporting that the site was unavailable. 
The site was initially returning a server error with “Access Manager WebSEAL”, though that message has since disappeared.
“myGov is currently unavailable. We apologise for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience,” a notice on the site now reads.

Minister backflips on myGov DDoS attack claim

By Justin Hendry on Mar 23, 2020 4:15PM

Now suggests site was simply overloaded.

Government services minister Stuart Robert has quickly walked back his claim that the online services portal myGov suffered a “significant distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack”. 
Robert initially blamed problems with the site on a DDoS attack that left thousands of Australians locked out while attempting to access welfare services on Monday.
But less than two hours after first making the claim, Robert backtracked, saying there was no attack and the site was simply overloaded.
Robert said the number of users hitting myGov this morning was almost double the 55,000 the site is designed to concurrently handle.

Coronavirus: Security agencies rule out MyGov attack

A massive failure in the MyGov website that has seen thousands of people flock to Centrelink offices around the country was not the result of a hack, but of an overload of the system.
The Australian can reveal that security agencies have ruled out the prospect of any attack on government services, contrary to official government statements.
“There is no substance to this whatsoever,’’ a government source briefed on the issue told The Australian.

myGov still stalling even after capacity tripled to 150,000

By Justin Hendry on Mar 24, 2020 1:25PM

"My bad not realising the sheer scale of the decision".

The government’s online services portal myGov is continuing to struggle amid the surge in demand for welfare services, even after site capacity was almost tripled overnight.
Social services minister Anne Ruston on Tuesday said myGov capacity had been increased from 55,000 to 150,000 concurrent users to support the number of people seeking welfare services.
Around 123,000 concurrent users were using the site early on Tuesday morning, according to government services minister Stuart Robert, though that figure has now climbed further.
“[Services Australia] have massively surged capacity into myGov overnight. There are right now 123,000 concurrent users (max 55,000 yesterday and only 6000 last Friday),” he said on Twitter.

myGov logins surpass 3 million in less than 24 hours

By Justin Hendry on Mar 24, 2020 10:46PM

And likely to increase as new COVID-19 bans introduced.

Millions of Australians have accessed the government’s online services portal myGov in less than 24 hours, as the fallout over the coronavirus induced shutdown continues.
Government services minister Stuart Robert revealed the figure late on Tuesday, highlighting the unprecedented number of people currently seeking welfare services.
“We have facilitated 3.2 million logins to myGov over the past 20 hours. This is just extraordinary,” he said on twitter.
“We will continue to run this service 24/7 and progressively increase its capacity as we have over recent days and months.”

DTA reveals its three-step myGov overhaul path

By Justin Hendry on Mar 26, 2020 1:18PM

After horror week for existing portal.

The Digital Transformation Agency has revealed its three-step path to an updated myGov digital services platform that promises citizens a single, tailored view of all their interactions with the federal government.
In a week dominated by problems with the existing online service portal due to the unprecedented number of people seeking welfare services, the agency has offered fresh detail on its vision for the new platform.
It follows an industry briefing with system integrators and strategic partners looking to work with the DTA on the build on Monday, when Services Australia was scrambling to increase capacity to a platform under siege
A prototype of the platform also called the government digital experience platform (GOVDXP) that will initially “operate as an extension to, and in parallel with, myGov” has already been designed and developed by the DTA and Services Australia.
Friday, 27 March 2020 12:29

COVID-19 lockdowns, self-isolation measures put Internet under pressure

Internet infrastructure is being put under significant pressure as rolling lockdowns begin to bite as COVID-19 and associated self-isolation measures transform working practices, according to data from a commercial spin-off from Monash University.
Dr Klaus Ackermann, Associate Professor Simon Angus, and Associate Professor Paul Raschky, economists at Monash University and co-founders of KASPR DataHaus, a Melbourne-based data company, made their comments after conducting research on how enormous volumes of global Internet activity data can be used to “infer human social and economic behaviour”.
As part of KASPR DataHaus, they have developed technology that collects and processes, on a daily basis, billions of Internet activity and quality measurements for any location in the world.
The team announced on Friday it has produced a Global Internet Pressure map that is publicly available and is being updated regularly via the KASPR Datahaus website, allowing users to explore the global observations in a dashboard, and download the data for specific countries.

NBN Co to unmeter over 70 percent of traffic on Sky Muster Plus

By Ry Crozier on Mar 25, 2020 8:32AM

Responds to growing concerns in satellite footprint.

NBN Co will permanently unmeter all internet traffic bar “video streaming and VPN” on its Sky Muster Plus service, with the government saying as much as 70 percent of usage will now be covered.
The network builder also significantly boosted data quota for users on its standard Sky Muster satellite plans in response to growing concerns at how the services, and families that rely on them, would cope as schools closed and parents worked from home.
Wednesday, 25 March 2020 11:53

Covid-19 puts extra strain on Internet, telcos urged to purchase more capacity

One in three (39%) Australians already face regular streaming dropouts and the demand for the Internet is about to surge as more Australians remain housebound due to the Covit-19 pandemic, according to comparison website Finder which says telcos should purchase more capacity from the NBN to help Internet users working from home through the crisis.
According to Finder tech expert Angus Kidman, with the Government’s announcement of the temporary closure of non-essential services, the surging demand for Internet will put a strain on the network - “not only from those working remotely, but also from people looking for other entertainment options following the cancellation of many sports and closure of pubs and bars, and people using online video for fitness sessions if they're housebound”.
“The NBN has said it will provision its network to offer faster services at a cheaper price. But it’s up to telcos to purchase more capacity, and usage is tricky to predict, so we can expect teething pains at the least,” Kidman said.
“NBN also just expanded the Sky Muster data allowance, which will ease the pressure on regional Australians attempting to work and study from home.
Wednesday, 25 March 2020 09:09

NBN Co lifts Sky Muster data limits for COVID-19

NBN Co is allowing satellite users to consume additional data during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Standard Sky Muster connections are getting an extra 45GB of data per month for up to three months, but it is up to RSPs to pass this on to their customers.
According to NBN Co, this will effectively double the average monthly download limit.
The company will review demand and make further adjustments to the allocation if required.

Google is reducing video quality on YouTube in Australia; others expected to follow

Google is cutting back YouTube streaming quality in Australia in line with its actions overseas. The move is aimed at reducing congestion online with families at home turning to the internet for work, schooling and entertainment.
Google’s decision, announced overnight, follows a similar move by Netflix which last week was in discussion with the Federal Government and Telstra to reign in bandwidth.
“Given we are expecting a significant increase in network traffic over the coming weeks, we are speaking to our streaming partners about whether they can limit the resolution of their streams should network capacity become a concern,” a Telstra spokesperson said, adding that many of its streaming partners have video optimisation capability.
It is understood the Federal Government has been in contact with streaming providers.

Netflix to crunch streaming bandwidth to ease broadband congestion

By Zoe Samios and Fergus Hunter
March 24, 2020 — 3.31pm
US entertainment giant Netflix will reduce the data its streaming service in Australia consumes in a bid to reduce broadband congestion as mobile and internet providers struggle to cope with rising demand from people stuck at home.
Netflix was due to compress the bit rates of its streams from Tuesday evening to help telecommunications providers cope with high levels of demand, following a similar move in Europe. Netflix Australia is the first local provider to reduce bit rates.
Ken Florance, Netflix's vice president of content delivery, said the reduced rates will be enforced in Australia for the next 30 days.
"Given the crisis, we've developed a way to reduce Netflix's traffic on the telecommunications network by 25 per cent while also maintaining the quality of our service," Mr Florance said.

Telstra reveals 20x call volume increase to govt call centres

By Ry Crozier on Mar 24, 2020 5:02PM

As voice networks across A/NZ are hammered.

Telstra is working to improve interconnection, capacity and routing of voice calls as its networks are hammered by large increases in call volumes.
Telstra said in a statement that mobile call volumes “on certain routes and geographies are up by more than 50 percent”. 
In addition, it said, “specific numbers to Government call centres are experiencing three times the call volumes compared to last week, and over 20 times the normal call volume.”
“As a result, we’re seeing congestion impacting a small proportion (3-4 per cent) of calls on our mobile network, with most of the congestion being driven by the high number of calls to Government 13 and 1800 numbers,” the telco said.
Monday, 23 March 2020 11:08

New NBN connections added by up to 40,000 weekly

Thirty thousand to 40,000 additional connections are being made every week to the National Broadband Network as the rollout of the network continues.
The completion of new connections was revealed by the Australian Government’s Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher on Monday when announcing that more than 11 million homes and businesses are now able to connect to “fast and reliable” broadband on the NBN.
“The Coalition Government’s commitment to a fast, efficient delivery of the NBN means that today the rollout is more than 95% complete, with 30,000 to 40,000 additional connections made every week,” Minister Fletcher said.
“Around 6.8 million homes and businesses across Australia now have an active NBN connection, with 67% of existing customers and 80% of new customers choosing retail plans with peak speeds of 50 Megabits per second or higher.

NBN leans on artificial intelligence

NBN is stepping up its use of artificial intelligence to help improve customer service, including diagnosing customer broadband problems, and streamline operational procedures such as processing invoices.
The organisation’s artificial intelligence applications are being developed by an “insights laboratory” of some 35 data scientists and technologists working in the NBN’s operations in Sydney and Melbourne.
“We started our artificial intelligence journey two or three years ago when we recognised that it was really taking off,” the NBN’s American born chief information officer Debbie Taylor, told The Australian in an interview.
 “We felt we needed to test out the use cases for artificial intelligence and how we could use it to improve outcomes for the NBN and our customers.”

Meet Ikaria wariootia, the first organism with a front and back

Rhys Blakely, Science Correspondent
Tuesday March 24 2020, 12.01am GMT, The Times
About the size and shape of a grain of rice, it may not look terribly impressive when set alongside the wildlife seen on earth today.
Some 555 million years ago, though, a newly discovered worm-like creature provided the animal kingdom with a new sense of direction. It was the first organism to have a front and a back and it has now been recognised by researchers as the “ancestor of all animals”.
The species, named Ikaria wariootia, is the earliest known bilaterian — an organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end connected by a gut.
Discovered in Australia by American researchers, it was detailed yesterday in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.