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 31, 2020

Commentators and Journalists Weigh In On Digital Health And Related Privacy, Safety And Security Matters. Lots Of Interesting Perspectives - March 31, 2020.

This weekly blog is to explore the larger issues around Digital Health, data security, data privacy, AI / ML. technology, social media and related matters.
I will also try to highlight ADHA Propaganda when I come upon it.
Just so we keep count, the latest Notes from the ADHA Board are dated 6 December, 2018! Secrecy unconstrained! This is really the behaviour of a federal public agency gone rogue – and it just goes on! When you read this it will be over 16 months of radio silence, and worse, while the CEO, COO and the Chief of Staff have gone, still no change.  I wonder will things improve at some point, given the acting CEO seems not to care, as well.  I think it is fair to assume no change will come in the foreseeable future.
Note: Appearance here is not to suggest I see any credibility or value in what follows. I will leave it to the reader to decide what is worthwhile and what is not! The point is to let people know what is being said / published that I have come upon.

GPs call for relaxation of prescribing regulations

A change to legislation would give GPs an interim solution amid the coronavirus crisis, with most consultations likely to become telehealth-based.
26 Mar 2020
‘It is unnecessary, it defeats the principles of social distancing. Our priority now is to stop the spread of the coronavirus and reduce unnecessary exposure and demand on healthcare services.’

Dr Nathan Pinskier, GP and member of the RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management (REC–PTM), is referring to the current legislation that requires a paper prescription with a GP’s wet-ink signature as authorisation for pharmacists to dispense medication to patients and claim through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Despite a number of GPs working remotely, and the majority expected to transition a significant percentage of consultations to a telehealth format as of next week, as the law stands, patients or carers would still be required to visit a clinic in person to pick up the prescription.

Alternatively, for patients who are in self-isolation or quarantine, doctors would need to eventually send the prescription via post and pharmacists would have to chase them up – time that GPs argue would be better spent responding to needs of patients during the current crisis.


Planned telehealth expansion welcome, but must look beyond doctors alone

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’.

Coronavirus: Sacrificing privacy with tracking device ‘is worth it’

Legal and privacy advocates say they’re open to South Korean-style tracking of coronavirus ­patients, which has helped the country successfully “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 infections.
South Korean ambassador to Australia Baeksoon Lee said his country’s citizens had willingly sacrificed personal privacy to fight the virus, accepting real-time GPS tracking of positive cases by the government and the public.
Mobile phone location data is used by the country’s health authorities to undertake extensive contact tracing of COVID-19 cases, and has been made available for smartphone apps that sound a warning in the vicinity of an infected person or a high-risk location.
Mr Lee said the tracking system had been a key plank in the ­nation’s coronavirus fight, along with extensive coronavirus testing and South Koreans’ strong sense of social responsibility.
“We shared that information with the public so the public could know where that

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Understanding your privacy obligations to your staff

18 March 2020
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) appreciates the unprecedented challenges Australian Government agencies and private sector employers are facing to address the spread of COVID-19. This guidance is intended to help entities regulated by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act) to understand their privacy obligations in the context of the pandemic.
The Privacy Act will not stop critical information sharing. Agencies and private sector employers (including private health service providers)[1] have important obligations to maintain a safe workplace for staff and visitors and handle personal information appropriately, and already have practices in place to handle employee health information. For private sector employers, the employee records exemption will apply in many instances to permit the handling of employee health information.[2]
In order to manage the pandemic while respecting privacy, agencies and private sector employers should aim to limit the collection, use and disclosure of personal information to what is necessary to prevent and manage COVID-19, and take reasonable steps to keep personal information secure.
Regulated entities should also consider whether any changes to working arrangements will impact on the handling of personal information, assess any potential privacy risks and put in place appropriate mitigation strategies as part of Business Continuity Planning.

Key points

  • Personal information should be used or disclosed on a ‘need-to-know’ basis
  • Only the minimum amount of personal information reasonably necessary to prevent or manage COVID-19 should be collected, used or disclosed
  • Consider taking steps now to notify staff of how their personal information will be handled in responding to any potential or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Ensure reasonable steps are in place to keep personal information secure, including where employees are working remotely.

Report by Atlas VPN finds more than 300,000 suspicious coronavirus-themed websites as phishing goes rampant

Researchers have discovered more than 300,000 suspicious coronavirus-themed websites as part of an alarming 350 per cent increase in phishing websites.
The report, based on data gathered by Atlas VPN, has found that cybercriminals have been using innocent looking malware-infected COVID-19 maps to attempt to gain access to people’s data.
“Now hackers are taking it even further by building scam websites and tricking people into purchasing fake cures, supplements, and vaccines,” it says.
Cybercriminals use phishing to gather personal information using deceptive e-mails or, in this case, websites, and highlights the danger of internet browsing during the pandemic.

Cyber crime threat advice updated over coronavirus scams

March 27, 2020 — 9.34am
Australia's cyber security body will updated its threat advice in a bid to stop hackers using the outbreak of COVID-19 to send fake emails and texts to infect computers and networks with malware and steal user information.
The upturn in "phishing" emails and SMS messages with coronavirus-related titles comes as the Morrison government will overhaul its long-awaited cyber security strategy to take into account the threats of COVID-19.
There is also growing concern from cyber experts about work-from-home arrangements giving cyber criminals the opportunity to access the computer networks of government departments and large companies.
The coronavirus emails and text messages are offering advice and information on detection which are embedded with malicious links or documents, which when clicked or opened unleash remote access trojans giving hackers control of a computer, phone or network.

'Digital divide': 2.5 million Australians isolated with no internet connection

March 27, 2020 — 10.05am
A coalition of major community organisations has called for urgent efforts to help the 2.5 million Australians not connected to the internet as the country turns to online education, remote work and telehealth during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Australian Council of Social Service, Choice, Anglicare, Smith Family and almost 30 other groups have written to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher warning people without internet connections and technology face an "alarming escalation of the digital divide".
Telehealth and other internet-based services are in demand during the COVID-19 crisis.
Praising the economic support packages announced by the government so far, the groups said more was needed for the many low income and remote households "who will remain isolated and struggle in these circumstances due to barriers in accessing communications services and equipment".
The pre-existing problem is heightened during the pandemic, the groups warned, hindering access to government services, children trying to undertake online education and people needing access to telehealth services.
Thursday, 26 March 2020 13:49

ACS responds to COVID-19 with home working tips for small business

The Australian Computer Society has released a top 10 list of tips for small businesses wanting to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis.
The ACS says its fact sheet containing tips for businesses that do not have a history of working from home provides SMBs with the basic steps required to maximise working from home arrangements over a three-month timeline.
ACS President Dr Ian Oppermann said “Following the meeting of the National Cabinet yesterday, the advice has been unequivocal – businesses are strongly encouraged to work from home where you can do that.”
“Public health must be our primary objective in combating COVID-19. The secondary objective after must be keeping the economy strong and consequently to save jobs. Any loss of skills, capacity or capability from the Australian economy will lead to a slowdown coming out of the current economic volatility, and that will impact living standards.

Navigating cybersecurity in a work from home environment

COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge to business. Most of corporate Australia is now operating remotely in line with 'work from home procedures' and a business continuity plan. However, with remote working comes inherent cybersecurity risks and potential data breaches. Below we outline some steps you can take today to safely navigate your company through this time.
Cyber risks are increasing
Cybersecurity incidents affect approximately 1 in 3 Australians and cost businesses $29 billion per year.1
With the advent of COVID-19, cybercriminals have been capitalising on public fear surrounding the pandemic in a number of phishing scams. The scams have been using trusted brands such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Australian Government Department of Health, and the U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to send 'phishing lures' in emails and online messaging platforms.
In light of these increased risks, timely consideration needs to be given to the strategies a company has in place to mitigate cybersecurity threats.

Cyber security volunteers protect Australian healthcare in COVID-19 crisis

Inspired by a UK effort, the Australian cyber security professionals will help healthcare organisations and small charities in Australia and New Zealand.

CSO | 26 March 2020 6:00 AEDT
Cyber security professionals in Australia are coming together and volunteering their services to protect health facilities and small charities from cyber attack during the COVID-19 crisis.
The group, Cyber Volunteers-19 Australia, has been formed in response to a call to action from the founders of the UK’s CV19 group, created for the same purpose by prominent cyber security professional Lisa Forte, a partner at Red Goat Cyber Security.
The founder of the Australian group is Louisa Vogelenzang, associate managing director for data breach and identity theft a global cyber risk firm Kroll. She told Computerworld Australia, “I saw Lisa’s LinkedIn post and so did Dan Goldberg [principal partner at cyber security advisory firm Cybza]. We shared it and said, ‘Let's get something started in Australia’. Then we connected to each other and we brought onboard another couple of people: Gareth Willis [director of Cognitive Security] based out of Hobart, and Jacqui Loustau, founder of the Australian Women in Security Network.”
A closed group had been set up on LinkedIn where cyber security professionals can express interest in joining the group, and there’s a public page to keep people updated on the group’s progress and activities.

Security tips for working from home

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has resulted in an unprecedented global crisis. Many companies are encouraging, or enforcing, employees to work from home, so as to reduce the impact of the spread of COVID-19. A number of these decisions are being made quickly, with a focus on the health and well-being for all staff members, clients, and the public at large.
This quick response to a rapidly changing situation may leave organisations at risk of security vulnerabilities. Security obligations are not suspended during these times of crisis!
This article sets out some security tips for working from home.
Only take home the essentials
Taking home hard copies of confidential or other sensitive information should be avoided. If it is necessary (and permitted by your security requirements!) to take this information home, ensure it is protected by appropriate safeguards (e.g. in a locked drawer, with yourself as the only keyholder).
This principle should apply to all important documents – ensure any irreplaceable documents (like originals) are kept away from pets, artistic toddlers, and muddy shoes.

Mind that Zoom in the work-from-home boom

Mar 24, 2020 – 6.27pm
Cyber security and privacy experts say remote workers should exercise caution when using video-conferencing platform Zoom, and recommend that sensitive business and legal conversations be kept off the platform due to Zoom's data and privacy policies.
On March 19, Google search interest in Australia for the term "Zoom" hit peak popularity, as organisations across the country sent more staff to work from home where possible to encourage social distancing practices to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
And while The New York Times declared just last week that "We Live In Zoom Now", Australian National University Cyber Institute research fellow James Mortensen told The Australian Financial Review that Zoom was not his first choice when it came to secure, private video-conferencing software.
"Given the huge rise in the use of Zoom, and the sort of data Zoom collects, basically, uninhibited speech and video, because our legal framework around privacy is so poor, we're about to create a new animal," Mr Mortensen said.

The trouble with Zoom

Video conferences are now king. But a popular technology could be putting corporate privacy at risk with little power to prevent it.
Mar 24, 2020 – 4.47pm
As businesses grind to a halt, markets fall and bottom lines plummet as a result of COVID-19 containment measures, there remain a few winners: pharmaceutical companies, medical suppliers and toilet paper mills all come to mind.
Another big winner is Zoom, the online meeting technology used by many of Australia’s big businesses, government departments and universities. As working remotely from home or in smaller groups becomes the norm in these virus-hit times, Zoom has quickly seemed indispensable. But serious and unresolved issues around its security, privacy and data use may mean that the cost of using the platform could be higher than most realise.
In the past year, Zoom has suffered from several critical security vulnerabilities, ranging from allowing hackers into private calls uninvited, to allowing Mac users to be forced into calls without their knowledge. While such vulnerabilities were patched, Zoom’s approach to these concerns has been rather blase. In the latter case especially, Zoom essentially refused to change fundamentally flawed security practices.

Recent My Health Record system upgrade - enhances to setting security controls, advance care planning and medicines view

23 March 2020   ADHA Propaganda
The latest My Health Record system upgrade on 13-14 March aims to improve usability for consumers and healthcare providers. It enables easier setup of security controls, treatment needs made known, and help avoiding issues relating to medicines. 
We have seen the important role My Health Record has played in large scale crises such as Queensland floods and the recent bushfires, where pharmacists and hospital staff have relied on information in the My Health Record to provide care and foresee the important role it will play for future crises.
Read the Australian Digital Health Agency's media release here.

Privacy in the Time of COVID-19: Australia

Australia March 20 2020
Nothing can stop us from talking about privacy, including a pandemic! Today, the Australian Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) issued guidance on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information during the COVID-19 pandemic (Guidance).
It mainly serves as a reminder to organisations that even in these pressing times, they must comply with the Australian privacy regime. However, it also highlights what organisations can collect and do with personal information for the purposes of preventing and managing the spread of COVID-19.
Our key takeaways highlight what organisations can collect and what they then can do with the information. These include:
Primary purpose of collection – organisations can collect personal information, including sensitive health information, from their employees or visitors and then use or disclose it if the use or disclosure is related to the primary purpose of collection. In these circumstances, organisations collecting health information for the purpose of preventing or managing the risk and/or reality of COVID-19 can use and disclose that information to ensure that necessary precautions are adopted in relation to that individual and any other individuals.
24 March 2020

E-scripts for isolated patients will happen sooner not later, says MSIA and government

Posted by Jeremy Knibbs
A fully operational token based e-script system could be up in less than eight weeks, albeit, likely only for about 60% of GPs, according to the CEO of the Medical Software  Industry Association (MSIA) of Australia, Emma Hossack.
This flies in the face of recent speculation that the eight-week time frame being pushed by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) with the major patient management system  and dispensing vendors was neither logistically nor financially feasible given other issues during the current COVID-19 crisis.
However, Ms Hossack told The Medical Republic this morning that some vendors were a lot more advanced than others, and the timeframe that was being dismissed by many a week ago as a pipedream,  is a lot closer for some vendors than many people think.
The e-script project is a paperless and secure cloud and mobile solution for patients, doctors and pharmacists, driven by a token system which exchanges between the PMS and dispensing vendors and the existing Rx exchanges, eRx and Medisecure.  If it was running then patients in isolation would  not need to leave home to get scripts.

Can 3D printing algorithms save lives from coronavirus?

24th March 2020
Italy recently became the unwanted COVID-19 epicentre, with hundreds of deaths each day and horror stories emerging of older patients being denied intubation in favour of younger patients.
But it has been suggested that at least 10 patients were saved, thanks to 3D printing.
The technology is usually sold as a cheap way of producing custom prosthetics or splints, with machines creating plastic objects to order, based on computer-specified designs.
But last month, a hospital in northern Italy, where the corona­virus outbreak was at its most severe, ran out of valves for oxygen masks.
With 250 patients in intensive care with COVID-19 complications, and no new supplies imminent, the day was saved by local 3D printing engineers who collected a used valve from the hospital and, within three hours, wrote a computer algorithm for its replication.
Author's Opinion
Tuesday, 24 March 2020 12:15

As more people work from home, Telstra's Penn makes silly plea

In the midst of any national crisis, it is common to find people who want to make themselves heard somehow, even if they can only do so by making the most stupid statements possible. That is clearly the case with the utterance issued by Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn who has called on Australians to be more mindful of how they use the Internet.
Let this sink in: Penn's words of wisdom were uttered more than a week after a goodly portion of the country's workers were asked to go home and work from there. Exactly how they would work without using the Internet is unknown to me; perhaps Penn has an answer to that.
This garbage was dressed up as an exclusive and printed in The Australian. And the man behind it was no less a person than the publication's technology editor, David Swan.
Penn's logic (??) was that just as people were asked to moderate their behaviour in supermarkets and not indulge in panic buying, Internet users should lessen their impact on the network.

Telstra plea to reduce internet use

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn has called on Australians to be more mindful of how they use the internet as pressure mounts on the country's telecommunications infrastructure.
Speaking exclusively to The Australian, Mr Penn said that just as panicked shoppers had to monitor their behaviour, internet users should take steps to lessen their impact on the internet.
“This is an unprecedented situation that we’re all going through. and it’s going to require all of us to make some changes, adapt our behaviour and make a contribution to getting through this, as successfully as we possibly can,” he said.
 “What would be helpful is as users, we can actually find ways to actually help.”

My Health Record

23 March, 2020.  ADHA Propaganda
The current MyGov outage is not affecting healthcare providers' access to My Health Record.
Now more than ever, it is important that your health information is available to healthcare providers if needed.
For more information on digital health, visit digitalhealth.gov.au

Start-ups have the agility to survive then thrive in virus chaos

Tech entrepreneurs are seeing the COVID-19 devastation at close hand already, but know that downturns can also produce a new wave of business models and IP.
Jonathan Barouch Contributor
Mar 23, 2020 – 1.00pm
As a founder and chief executive of a tech start-up, I knowingly signed up for the highs and lows of navigating a small business through an unpredictable and ever-changing landscape. And I’ve had my share of both.
I founded my first start-up shortly before the 2000 dotcom bubble burst and charted it through that period as well as the subsequent global financial crisis in 2007, finally exiting the business in 2010.
However, over the course of my entrepreneurial career, I’ve never had to lead through a crisis that came as unexpectedly, rapidly and impactfully as COVID19.
First, let me share some context. My current company, Local Measure, provides customer experience and customer engagement solutions predominantly in the tourism, leisure and retail verticals. We operate globally and have team members in 6 countries.

Seven big COVID-19 driven digital health innovations already up

March 23, 2020       Jeremy Knibbs

COVID-19 distress has let our GPs, software vendors, pharma companies and government to be suddenly move oceans and more innovative and pragmatic about how they deliver services

There’s nothing like a crisis to get humans thinking harder and co-operating more effectively for the greater good. Hardship breeds innovation.
So for all the awful downside of the COVID-19 crisis, one silver lining is that there has probably never been a time in recent history when the digital healthcare community has come together to solve complex issues of patient care more effectively than now.
Individual GPs, all the governments, software vendors, the colleges, service providers, GP corporates and the pharmaceutical industry are all rapidly innovating, and co-operating like never before to expedite more effective systems to manage the crisis.
Following are just some of the innovations and examples of co-operation that have emerged in the last few weeks, all of which are likely to have a long-lasting effect on the efficiency of our healthcare system.
Comments more than welcome!

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.