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.
Another quiet week in COVIDTimes with the usual collection of things not going as planned and a collection of breathless press releases – many of which did not seem to be revealing much in the way of progress!
Enjoy the browse!
'Dishonest': COVIDSafe app has not detected a case despite 6 million downloads
By Ben Grubb
June 28, 2020 — 12.00am
The federal government's COVIDSafe app has not identified any close contacts of a person infected with coronavirus who had not already been found through manual contact tracing, despite being downloaded by more than 6 million Australians in two months.
As the number of infections soars in Victoria, Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said the government was being dishonest about the effectiveness of the app, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison touted as "sunscreen" against major outbreaks and as the key to lifting restrictions.
Senator Patrick, who has an engineering background and was a project manager involved in rapid-prototyping and testing, said the government was refusing to concede the app "wasn't working properly, if at all".
NSW hospitals' electronic systems and patient records knocked out
June 23, 2020 — 1.26pm
Doctors and nurses across NSW public hospitals were forced to treat patients without access to their electronic medical records after a major outage knocked out the entire network for several hours.
Doctors arriving for patient rounds on Tuesday morning discovered they couldn’t access their hospitals’ electronic systems. They switched to paper and pen as they checked on the health of their patients.
NSW Health website, health.nsw.gov.au, was also offline most of Tuesday, displaying the message: "Cannot connect to the configuration database." Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the site has been used to relay to the public daily statistical information about the virus.
An alert sent to NSW Health staff blamed a "major power outage" at 4.15am at the NSW Government Data Centre facility in Silverwater.
Global data-sharing alliance key to finding COVID-19 cures fast
June 26, 2020 — 7.00pm
Scientists across the globe can share their data on a new digital platform, pooling their knowledge, discoveries and skills to fast track vital treatments for COVID-19.
The International Data Research Alliance and Data Analysis Workbench aims to entice researchers to share their findings, data-sets, or metadata securely to uncover treatments that could save thousands of lives and curb the suffering caused by coronavirus.
The alliance co-founders and major donors include Australia’s Minderoo Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Mastercard and Wellcome. The international consortium hopes the workbench will break down research silos that stymie progress and open access to emerging data to accelerate the development of therapies for COVID-19.
"The only way we’re going to relegate COVID-19 to the dustbin of history is through open data sharing and collaboration," Minderoo Foundation chairman Andrew Forrest said.
How Tasmania began crunching COVID-19 hospital data in just days
By Justin Hendry on Jun 26, 2020 12:50PM
Clinical analytics team central to state’s response.
When Tasmania recorded its first cases of coronavirus in early March, the state was already well-placed to respond to the data needs of health staff thanks to an established analytics program.
The Tasmanian Health Service, which is responsible for operational analytics within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), had been busy developing near real-time dashboards for hospital data for the past 18 months.
The dashboards, known as ‘focus boards’ to the more than 600 clinicians and other health staff that regularly use them, have been built on Qlik’s QlikSense data visualisation platform by the service's Clinical Financial Analytics Unit.
They are the natural evolution of DHHS’s first QlikView dashboards that were built to generate health-oriented insights prior to the consolidation of the state’s three health analytics functions in 2016.
Winners of Innovation Challenge to help future proof Australia’s healthcare system announced
June 23, 2020
The Australian Digital Health Agency has announced the winners of the Innovation Challenge championing digital health innovation to provide a healthier future for Australians through connected healthcare.
Through the National Digital Health Strategy, government is partnering with our internationally competitive and vibrant health technology sector at a time when the use of technology in health and social care has never been more important.
Australian Digital Health Agency Chief Digital Officer, Steven Issa congratulated the winners who were determined through a competitive process and thanked all applicants for participating in the Innovation Challenge.
“We were delighted to see such interest in this challenge when we received 395 applications from Australian industry and academia on how to solve key healthcare challenges. It was difficult to determine the finalists with so many highly innovative ideas. Thank you to all who submitted applications and congratulations to the winners,” he said.
HealthDirect Australia keeping tabs on directory data quality using federated platform
The organisation can now proactively track and trace the quality of the data that's updated in its directory.
Having centralised data directories, in theory, is an ideal solution for keeping all necessary data stored and located at a single location.
But for HealthDirect Australia, the national government-owned organisation that provides health information and advice to Australians and is the host of the national health services directory, the experience of relying on centralised data directories were quite the opposite.
According to HealthDirect Australia engineering manager Mark Paul, having centralised data directories that are reactive rather than proactive is not ideal when there is an aim to maintain the quality of critical healthcare data.
Sigma Healthcare digitises pharmacy order system with SAP stack
By Ry Crozier on Jun 26, 2020 11:59AM
Orders no longer faxed in.
Sigma Healthcare, an ASX-listed pharmaceutical wholesaler and owner of retail brands like Amcal, has transformed the way 1200 pharmacies nationwide order stock with a new ordering platform built on an SAP stack.
Head of e-commerce Luke Shaw told SAP’s virtual Sapphire Now conference that Sigma had built a new wholesale ordering platform on SAP’s commerce cloud and SAP Qualtrics.
“Not so long ago our pharmacies were ordering from us via fax - and that's within the last 12 months,” Shaw said.
“So this technology [is] a huge leap forward.”
Govt asks GPs to dob in dodgy telehealth providers
Health officials say they are 'actively monitoring' the integrity and quality of services being provided
26th June 2020
The Federal Health Department is asking doctors to dob in telehealth entrepreneurs they suspect are ripping off Medicare amid claims of an MBS 'free-for-all'.
More than $400 million in rebates has been claimed for standard GP telehealth consults since the emergency items were introduced in March.
Health officials say they are aware of the concerns over potential rorts and are warning practitioners can be reported to AHPRA if they do not have arrangements for patients to be seen in-person when clinically necessary.
A script solution
Fred IT has been chosen as a winner in innovation for its WhatsApp prescription solution, with trials now in the works
Fred IT Group is one of five winners of the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) Innovation Challenge, for its solution that enables Australians to easily access their prescriptions electronically via WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is a Facebook-owned messaging app that allows users to send text and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other media.
Fred IT Group’s solution leverages the WhatsApp platform, which is utilised by millions of Australians, to provide patients with the ability to seamlessly and easily fulfil their prescriptions.
Their innovation is the first ever use of the WhatsApp platform for prescription dispensing requests via a chatbot in WhatsApp.
Telehealth triggers GP boycott call
Doctors are urging a rethink on access to telehealth consultations, warning that a proliferation of pop-up clinics where patients can access prescription drugs without visiting a GP could undermine patients’ long-term health.
Pharmaceutical chain Priceline has raised the ire of GPs by setting up an instant script service that is being described as a “pharmacy vending machine”.
While Priceline’s script service does not attract a Medicare rebate unless there is an associated phone consultation, some doctors are now also boycotting Chemist Warehouse, which is marketing a bulk-billed “instant consult” telehealth service to consumers who present with scripts.
Chemist Warehouse customers are urged to download an Instant Consult app and connect to a doctor within 15 minutes if they require a script. The service is bulk-billed under telehealth,
AMA tells Hunt to end telehealth 'free-for-all'
It wants the MBS items restricted to GPs with a pre-existing relationship with their patient
25th June 2020
The MBS telehealth items need to be restricted immediately to end the alarming exploitation of a telehealth ‘free-for-all”, the AMA says.
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has taken his case directly to Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt.
He wants new rules that demand only GPs with pre-existing relationships with their patients can access the items.
More than 14 million telehealth consults have been claimed since items were added as an emergency COVID-19 measure in March.
The Federal Government has so far resisted any restrictions in an attempt to ensure all patients can access care remotely while the social distancing restrictions are in place.
Pop-Up Telehealth Services
25 Jun 2020
The AMA remains in discussions with the Government over concerns that pop-up telehealth services, including those that are linked to pharmacies, are fragmenting patient care and undermining the role of a patient’s usual GP.
While ninety percent of COVID-19 MBS funded telehealth services are being provided in circumstances where the patient has an existing relationship with the GP, a growing number of telehealth providers have moved to take advantage of the temporary items that have been introduced by the Government.
The AMA has lobbied the Government to tighten the rules to prevent this behaviour and expects the Government to finalise its position in coming days.
COVID-19 spotlight prompts calls for genomics roadmap
By Emma Koehn
June 27, 2020 — 12.00am
The local head of $80 billion DNA sequencing biotech Illumina has called on the federal government to develop a national plan to better leverage genomic research and attract global medtechs to Australia.
Genomics is the study of the genetic information contained in human cells and can be used to help improve disease testing and develop more personalised treatments for cancer and other illnesses.
"Australia could definitely do with a road map and dedicated attention to health system readiness," said the company's general manager for Asia Pacific and Japan, Gretchen Weightman.
"More than a big chunk of dollar investment, it just takes actually policy and attention. A lot of the infrastructure is there, it just needs attention."
Contract Notice View - CN3628683-A2
AusTender holds Contract and Standing Offer Notices for the 07/08 financial year forward. For information related to previous years, please refer to https://data.gov.au/dataset/historical-australian-government-contract-data.
Subcontractors: For Commonwealth contracts that started on or after 1 December 2008, agencies are required to provide the names of any associated subcontractors on request. Information on subcontractors can be sought directly from the relevant agency through the Agency Contact listed in each Contract Notice.
Professional Consulting Services
Contact Name: Australian Digital Health Agency
Email Address: email@example.com
Office Postcode: 2606
CN ID: CN3628683-A2
Agency: Australian Digital Health Agency
Amendment Publish Date: 22-Jun-2020
Category: Management advisory services
Contract Period: 30-Aug-2019 to 30-Oct-2020
Contract Value (AUD): $1,220,000.00
Amendment Value (AUD): $470,000.00
Amendment Start Date: 14-Apr-2020
Description: Professional Consulting Services
Parent CN: CN3628683
Procurement Method: Open tender
ATM ID: DH2233
SON ID: SON1700081
Agency Reference ID: KPMG Australia
Monday, 22 June 2020 13:29
Telehealth services to ‘flourish’ after COVID 19 has passed
Telehealth services will continue to boom and flourish well after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, according to software engineer for medical software solutions company MedicalDirector, Jamie Richter.
Richter, a CQUniversity alumnus who played a part in the rollout of COVID-19 medical initiatives such as telehealth and electronic prescribing during the pandemic, says he believes telehealth will “undoubtably flourish in the coming years”.
“While nothing will ever truly replace the need for face-to-face, figures have suggested that anywhere up to 50% of general practice consults were conducted via telehealth or telephone during the pandemic,” Richter said.
“While nobody expects those lofty numbers to remain the norm, we do expect to see the rise of the telehealth-only medical practice!
Telehealth has been used to polarise the profession, says Professor Simon Willcock
As part of the 'Don't Hang Up on Telehealth' campaign, one of Australia's leading GPs argues the technology will help overcome the isolation faced by marginalised patients no matter where they live
22nd June 2020
Governments of all colours have spent years blocking the widespread adoption of telehealth in routine medical consultations.
This has to end, says Professor Simon Willcock, who believes that denying urban patients access to the technology is both illogical and immoral.
“Is it convenient to speak now?” I asked, thinking that I must have misread the appointment time.
“Sure. It’s fine, so long as you don’t mind my panting. I’m cycling in the Dolomites”.
Make the most of your professional development in 2020 with a UTAS scholarship
The University of Tasmania is offering a range of courses available from July 2020 to utilise the UTAS scholarship available to AIDH members and study online.
Fellows and Members have access to the following postgraduate scholarship: 50% HECs fee
Bachelor of e-Health (Health Informatics) (Professional Honours) (H4E)
Applications close July 5 2020.
For further information regarding scholarships, please click here. To ensure the scholarship is applied to AIDH member applications, please ensure you supply a confirmation of membership (copy of invoice or proof of membership letter) as this will help speed up the application process for you.
Research into 3D printing of skin awarded medical funding
22 June, 2020
Curtin University researchers have been awarded $737,690 in funding to develop a safe, effective and affordable treatment for severe and chronic skin wounds.
The Minister for Health, the Honourable Greg Hunt, announced the Curtin research project received funding in the latest round of grants for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Stem Cell Therapies 2020.
The project, led by Associate Professor Pritinder Kaur from Curtin’s School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences and the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI), will establish and optimise 3D technologies for bio-printing skin tissue directly onto model wounds, as a precursor to skin repair in humans.
Curtin University Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran congratulated Associate Professor Kaur on receiving funding her important work, which will provide a revolutionary new system for the treatment of skin trauma.
Digital solution holds hope for atrial fibrillation outcomes
Wednesday, 24 June, 2020
A research project underway in western Sydney could see marked improvements for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF).
The project — a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC), industry partner HMS and the Australian Government-funded Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) — is looking to improve treatment effectiveness, healthcare costs and quality of life outcomes for the 2–4% of Australians with AF. This will be achieved by providing better support and follow-up after they leave hospital to reduce the risk of repeat hospitalisation, stroke and congestive heart failure.
Customised to suit the Australian health system, the project will employ a successful engagement tool used in the USA to improve patient engagement and adherence to immunisation and medications, adapting it to provide personalised management and support to AF patients.
The tool will use digital outreach methods to improve patients’ medical and lifestyle management, monitor symptoms and identify any potential complications of AF so they can be addressed early.
UQ finds human-AI collaboration best for spotting skin cancer
By Matt Johnston on Jun 24, 2020 11:54AM
Outperforming diagnoses made by AI or humans alone.
Combining the expert opinion of doctors with insights from artificial intelligence (AI) could provide the best option for skin cancer diagnosis, according to researchers from the University of Queensland.
UQ’s Professor Monika Handa was part of an international team that examined how collaboration between humans and machines worked in real life.
“This is important because AI decision support has slowly started to infiltrate healthcare settings, and yet few studies have tested its performance in real world settings or how clinicians interact with it,” Janda said.
Health dept extends Datacom outsourcing deal for $160m
By Justin Hendry on Jun 25, 2020 6:54AM
Two more years.
The federal Department of Health has extended its IT outsourcing deal with Datacom for a further two years amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The department handed the company the two-year extension last month at a cost of $159.7 million, bringing the infrastructure and support services deal to $506.3 million over seven years.
It means the contract, which covers the provision, maintenance and refresh of all hardware and software, has now more than doubled in cost since Datacom scooped the deal from IBM in 2015.
The deal also covers a range of enterprise data warehouse services that the department had previously sourced from Accenture.
Australia's newest Top500 supercomputer highly ranked
Based in Canberra, Australia's newest supercomputer named Gadi has placed 25th in the world in the latest Top500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers after achieving impressive benchmark results.
Ranked as the most powerful supercomputer in the southern hemisphere, Gadi (which translates as 'to search for' in the language of the local Ngunnawal people) achieved a sustained benchmark of 9.26 petaFLOPS to claim position 25 in the latest list of worldwide supercomputers released overnight.
To put this in comparison, the new world-wide number one is the Japanese Fugaku, achieving 415.52 petaFLOPS, nearly triple the performance of the previous leading machine (and almost 45 times the performance of Gadi!).
Gadi is based at the national Computational Infrastructure (NCI) facility in Canberra and will be used in a variety of research tasks in support of meteorology, geoscience, climate and fire modelling, to name just a few. It was funded with a $70M grant from the Australian Government NCRIS and delivered by Fujitsu Australia and was first announced about a year ago.
Tough cyber security rules loom for business as attacks surge
Andrew Tillett Political correspondent
Jun 22, 2020 – 12.00am
Businesses will be required to comply with minimum standards of cyber security under a federal government plan to harden the nation's defences of vulnerable computer networks against foreign adversaries and cyber criminals.
Firms will also need to ramp up their spending on cyber security, including potentially contributing to the cost of the national agencies as part of an updated cyber security strategy.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the strategy will also see Canberra lift its spending following revelations a "sophisticated state-based actor" had attempted to hack into Australian networks on an industrial scale.
China is being blamed for unleashing the attacks, which began about 18 months ago when Australia rejected Huawei's participation in the rollout of the 5G network.
ACT govt urged to improve data security after shocker audit
By Justin Hendry on Jun 22, 2020 1:54PM
Agencies lacking understanding, awareness.
The ACT government has been told to lift its data security game after the territory's auditor-general raised serious concerns with its policies and the data handling practices of public servants.
The audit of the territory’s data security practices also reveals that the government is without a government-wide data breach response plan, despite suffering a breach as recently as late 2018.
The report, released on Friday, is highly critical of the ACT public sector’s compliance with mandatory requirements under the government’s ICT security policy.
The policy, which was refreshed last August, requires that directorates and agencies comply on an annual basis to assist whole-of-government data security management.
Govt to set infosec standards industry-by-industry: report
By Ry Crozier on Jun 22, 2020 1:41PM
Widens long-running focus on regulating critical infrastructure.
Citing “industry sources”, The Australian Financial Review said standards could be set “industry-by-industry”, with banks, healthcare and utilities high on the list.
The prospect of tighter regulation of cybersecurity protections and practices for critical infrastructure was also raised to iTnews by several industry sources.
Any new regulations are expected to be laid out in the government's forthcoming cyber security strategy, due to be released "in the coming months".
NSW govt data centre goes down after power outage
By Justin Hendry on Jun 23, 2020 1:23PM
NSW Health, Service NSW impacted.
A number of NSW Health and Service NSW systems are offline after the state government’s Silverwater data centre suffered a power failure overnight.
Reports of issues with NSW Health systems, including the state’s electronic medical record and other corporate applications, emerged this morning.
The health.nsw.gov.au website has also been down all morning. It currently returns the message “cannot connect to the configuration database”.
After enquiries to NSW Health’s digital arm, eHealth NSW, a spokesperson for the Department of Customer Service told iTnews the outage had been caused by a power issue.
Drones the ‘future of medical delivery’, says Swoop Aero
Melbourne-based medical drone logistics company Swoop Aero has defied the COVID-19 downturn to close a Series A funding round, landing an eight-figure sum as it moves towards its stated goal of providing 100 million people with better access to health care by 2025.
Swoop Aero boss Eric Peck, a former air force fighter pilot, told The Australian his start-up recently became the first company in the world to remotely pilot commercially used drones from another country, when delivering PPE and critical supplies in Malawi during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company posted revenue growth of 50 per cent quarter-on-quarter for the past 18 months, supplying African countries with two-way drone networks capable of delivering essential medical supplies.
It’s now raised it’s first major round of capital, from Right Click Capital and Tempus Partners, to kickstart its drone networks in Australia and New Zealand.
Thursday, 25 June 2020 12:57
Australians’ data demand on NBN increases during COVID-19
Data demand on the NBN’s main wholesale access service continues to reflect Australians’ reliance on the network to keep them connected and working productively during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.
The latest report from the operators of the National Broadband Network, NBN Co, shows that for the week from Monday, 15 June to Sunday, 21 June, peak download throughput — the measure of data flowing through the NBN network during the busy evening period — increased by 21% to 13.4 terabits per second (Tbps) on the main NBN wholesale service, compared to the last week of February (which NBN measures as its normal pre-COVID-19 baseline).
The figures have been released from Australian Broadband Data Demand, a weekly report into the peak throughput recorded in a week during daytime business hours, early evening hours and busy evening hours.
The report also reveals that peak download throughput during the week beginning Monday, 15 June also increased compared to the pre-COVID-19 baseline during daytime business hours, up 26% to 9.8Tbps, and during early evening hours, up 27% to 12.4Tbps, on the main NBN wholesale service.
ACCC takes Dodo and iPrimus to court over internet speed claims
By Zoe Samios
June 23, 2020 — 10.31am
Australia's competition regulator is taking internet providers Dodo and iPrimus to court for allegedly misleading customers about their NBN broadband speeds.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges that the two providers, both owned by Vocus Group, made false claims about the internet speeds that customers could receive if they signed up to an NBN broadband service.
Competition tsar Rod Sims said the regulator will argue in Federal Court that the claims, made between March 2018 and April 2019, were misleading as most of Dodo and iPrimus' NBN customers would have been unable to receive the advertised speeds in prime-time evening hours between 7pm and 11pm.
Vocus to be hauled before Federal Court over NBN speed claims
By Ry Crozier on Jun 23, 2020 9:45AM
ACCC files suit.
Vocus is set to have the NBN speed claims of its Dodo and iPrimus brands tested in the federal court after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed suit against the company.
The ACCC alleges evening peak speeds advertised by Dodo and iPrimus between March 2018 and April 2019 were largely unachievable.
“We believe many of Dodo and iPrimus’ NBN customers would have been unable to regularly receive the advertised speeds during the busy evening period of between 7pm–11pm,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement.
“The ACCC will argue that Dodo and iPrimus used a fundamentally flawed testing methodology, developed by Vocus, which was not a reasonable basis for their advertising claims about certain typical evening speeds.”
TPG shareholders approve $15bn merger with Vodafone
By Ry Crozier on Jun 24, 2020 4:47PM
Could be effective within 2.5 weeks.
TPG shareholders have voted in favour of a $15 billion merger with Vodafone Hutchison Australia, with a court hearing the only thing now between the two telcos coming together.
VHA said TPG’s shareholders “voted in favour of the scheme of arrangement to merge the two companies” and also to “change the company name from TPG Telecom Limited to TPG Corporation Limited.”
TPG said in a financial filing that 99.99 percent of shareholders present voted in favour of the merger.
“Today is a significant milestone in the merger process and subject to final court approval, we will be bringing VHA and TPG together in two-and-a-half weeks,” VHA chief executive officer Iñaki Berroeta said in a statement.
Monday, 22 June 2020 07:41
Telco analyst Budde calls on govt to issue plan for next stage of NBN
The Federal Government needs to draft a statement of expectation as to what it expects to happen to the national broadband network next, after the network rollout is officially over at the end of the month, veteran telecommunications analyst Paul Budde says, adding that otherwise Australia will continue to languish in the broadband wilderness.
In a post shared with iTWire, Budde said such a statement would allow all interested parties to get involved in what is a national project.
"Through submissions, issues such as investments needed, competition safeguards, regulatory and legal changes, affordability guarantees and so on can then be discussed," he said.
"This process alone will easily take two years, before anything further will happen, so such a Statement or at least a major Review is long overdue."