Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review Of The Ongoing Post - Budget Controversy 18th December 2014. It’s Gone Ballistic!

Budget Night was on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 and the fuss has still not settled by a long shot. Indeed more than a few commentators are wondering out loud if the Abbot Government will last for a second term.
The modified co-payment - announced early last week - seems to have annoyed most other than the Government and we now wait till mid February 2015 to see what the Senate thinks of Plan B.
Otherwise the Budget seems to be in chaos with falling iron ore and now oil prices along with slowing growth and lots of commentary regarding the future of interest rates over 2015.
It also seems clear the Business Community is just utterly sick of the parliamentary shenanigans and really wants the Government to start behaving a adults as they promised.
See here:
Here are a few highlights of the vast number of articles I have seen.


Galaxy poll: Voters just about ready to ditch Tony Abbott

  • Samantha Maiden
  • Herald Sun
  • December 07, 2014 10:01AM
TONY Abbott risks becoming a one-term prime minister unless he lifts the Federal Government’s fortunes, with Labor opening up a 10-point 55-45 lead on a two-party-preferred basis.
After a week of confusion over the fate of the $7 GP fee and Mr Abbott’s confession that the Government had a “ragged” week, support for the Coalition has plunged again.
For the first time, Labor under Bill Shorten has also overtaken the Coalition on the primary vote since the election of the Government.
Support for the Labor Party has hit 41 per cent on primaries.

Wealthy mothers earning more than $150,000 a year may NOT get maternity pay as Tony Abbott backflips to pay for childcare reform 

·         Working mothers will reportedly be denied access to paid parental leave
·         Women earning over $150,000 could potentially miss the scheme entirely
·         The prime minister believes the combination of PPL and affordable childcare could get more women into the workforce
·         Carers working in the family home would be eligible for 50 per cent rebate
Published: 00:58 AEST, 7 December 2014 | Updated: 09:35 AEST, 7 December 2014
Working mothers who are earning six-figure salaries may be denied access to the Abbott government's much-vaunted paid parental leave (PPL) scheme as it looks to review the policy over the summer.
The revelation comes as a new poll shows the Coalition continues to trail behind the Opposition on a two-party preferred basis.
On Sunday, Mr Abbott fronted media after mounting speculation he would dump the policy that would see women earning up to $150,000 receiving six months' pay - a scheme he touted in the lead up to last year's election. 

Economy: Not good but not disastrous

Date: December 8, 2014 - 12:15AM

Ross Gittins

The Sydney Morning Herald's Economics Editor

Don't drop your bundle. It's not clear the economy has slowed to the snail's pace a literal reading of the latest national accounts suggests. As for the talk of a "technical income recession", it's just silly.
What is clear is that, at best, the economy continues to grow at the sub-par rate of about 2.5 per cent a year, a rate insufficient to stop unemployment continuing to edge up. This has been true for more than two years.
A literal reading of last week's national accounts from the Bureau of Statistics says the economy – real gross domestic product – grew by a mere 0.3 per cent in the September quarter, down from growth of 0.5 per cent in the previous quarter and 1 per cent in the quarter before that.

Medicare Co-Payments.

Tony Abbott dumps $7 GP co-payment for $5 optional fee

Joanna Mather
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has revised downwards his proposed GP tax from $7 to $5 and announced exemptions for children, pensioners, veterans and aged care residents.
The “co-payment” would only apply to adults for consultations of 10 minutes or more and it would be up to doctors to decide who should be billed, Mr Abbott said.
Opposition from Labor and minor parties meant Mr Abbott could not get the original proposal of a $7 fee through the Senate.
Mr Abbott said it was a “new and improved proposal which indicates that this is a government which is always capable of listening, learning and improving”.

Tony Abbott dumps Medicare copayment

Jared Owens

TONY Abbott has dumped plans to impose a $7 co-payment on Medicare services, instead using his executive power to cut payments to doctors and encouraging them to raise fees.
The Prime Minister’s new policy includes a price signal on doctors’ visits by cutting the rebate for doctors’ visits by $5, forcing doctors to consider imposing an “optional co-payment” to recover their loss.
The government will also impose a requirement for Medicare-funded doctors’ appointments to tackle 10-minute “sausage machine medicine” where patients are simply “churned through”.

Medicare co-payment amended by Coalition in favour of 'optional' system

Government backs away from its controversial budget proposal to charge $7 upfront payment for visits to the GP
Tony Abbott has backed away from the budget policy to introduce a $7 co-payment on GP visits, announcing exemptions for children, pensioners and veterans.
The prime minister said after a cabinet meeting in Canberra on Tuesday the government would proceed with a revised policy that would allow GPs to charge an “optional” $5 fee for adults who did not hold concession cards.
The government would reduce the Medicare rebate paid to providers by $5 for non-concession card holders, and it would be up to the provider to decide whether to recoup the money from patients.
Abbott said there would be “no change to bulk billing for children under 16, for pensioners, for veterans, for people in nursing homes and other aged care institutions”.

Government’s new co-payment model a ‘mixed bag’

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that the Government’s reworked co-payment model is a mixed bag, with welcome exemptions for vulnerable patients but concerns remain about cuts to the Medicare patient rebate.
A/Prof Owler said the AMA has been calling for protection for the poor, the elderly, the chronically ill, and Indigenous Australians – and this has been delivered with the new co-payment model.
“The AMA has led the debate on the unfairness of the Government’s original co-payment model since Budget night, and the Government has today addressed a number of our concerns,” A/Prof Owler said.
“We are pleased that concession card holders, children under 16, and residents of aged care facilities will not be subject to reduced Medicare rebates for general practitioner services.

Longer rebate freeze leaves GPs cold

Sean Parnell

Rachel Baxendale

HEALTH groups last night welcomed a belated decision to protect vulnerable patients and crucial tests from a reworked medical co-payment.
But doctors were still concerned they would be left to pay for the Abbott government’s concessions by way of an extension to the freeze on Medicare rebates to July 2018.
Seven months after the budget unveiled a $7 co-payment on all routine medical services, Tony Abbott and Health Minister Peter Dutton yesterday announced a reworked $5 co-payment for all but children, pensioners and veterans.
While the original model was set to free up $3.6 billion in government spending, initially to create a medical research future fund, the latest model will raise $3.5bn, through a $5 cut to standard Medicare rebates, changes to the rebate structure to incentivise longer consultations, and the extended freeze on Medicare rebates, each of which will contribute about $1bn.

The GP co-payment trick that purports to save $3.5 billion

Date December 10, 2014 - 8:43AM

Peter Martin

How can a $5 GP co-payment that excludes the young and those on benefits save just as much as a $7 co-payment that applies to everyone?
That's what we'll be asked to believe when the budget update is published next week. We'll be told Prime Minister Tony Abbott's new health package will save $3.5 billion whereas his old package would have saved $3.6 billion.
Part of the trick is that it isn't the co-payment that saves the government money, it's the cut to the Medicare rebate. That cut was always going to be $5 per consultation. If doctors had had the ability to charge a $7 co-payment they would have got an extra $2 in their pockets. Now they won't.

GP co-payment: Government prepares to woo Senate crossbenchers as doctors warn patients will pay more

By political correspondent Emma Griffiths
December 10, 2014, 10:18 am
The Federal Government has begun the sales job for its "better" GP co-payment proposal as it prepares for another round of crucial negotiations with the Senate crossbench to pass the measure.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced yesterday the original proposal to force patients to pay an extra $7 fee for GP visits had been dumped.
But the new plan cuts the Medicare rebate given to doctors by $5, putting pressure on GPs to charge patients the shortfall.
Mr Abbott denied the change was a backdown.

Aged care spared government’s GP co-payment

By Darragh O'Keeffe on December 10, 2014 in Government, Industry
While acknowledging the exemptions for aged care residents and children, consumers, doctors and nurses have broadly criticised the government’s latest policy.
Residents of aged care facilities will be among those exempt from the Federal Government’s new $5 GP co-payment plan, to be introduced for all non-concessional patients aged over 16 from 1 July 2015.
The government yesterday announced it was amending its fraught GP co-payment policy, first set out in the Budget in May.
While some media yesterday erroneously reported the government had “dumped” the scheme, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that the Medicare rebate paid to doctors would be reduced by $5. Doctors could choose to recoup that rebate reduction by charging patients a co-payment, or continue to bulk bill non-concessional patients – but at their own expense.

Patients could be paying $10 to see a doctor not $5 under Tony Abbott’s GP fee revamp

  • December 11, 2014 12:01AM
  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  • News Corp Australia Network
PATIENTS could end up paying way more than $5 to see a doctor, with the AMA predicting a copayment of up to $10 under Tony Abbott’s revamped policy on GP fees.
Worse still, patients who were once bulk-billed may have to pay $42 upfront and then go to Medicare to claim a $32 rebate as doctors scramble to stop their income from general patients being cut in half.
Patients also could face increased wait times to see a doctor with medicos now required to see patients for a minimum of ten minutes, up from six minutes.
Costs rising...AMA GP spokesman Dr Brian Morton says patients could pay more than $45 to see a GP under Tony Abbott’s reforms. Picture: News Corp. Source: News Limited
“A lot of practices are saying if you are just to maintain the status quo, given the extra red tape and cost of administering the fee, why not make it $10,” Australian Medical Association GP spokesman Dr Brian Morton said.

Co-payment will hit bulk billing, AMA predicts

Date December 10, 2014 - 10:35PM

Dan Harrison

Many medical practices will shift from bulk-billing to charging patients the full cost of their visit in advance in response to the Abbott Government's proposed GP co-payment, doctors have predicted.
Under proposals announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Health Minister Peter Dutton on Tuesday, the Medicare rebates for standard GP visits will be cut by $5 for non-concessional patients, and doctors will be allowed to charge the patient a fee of up to $5. In addition, the fees paid by Medicare for all other services will be frozen until July 2018.
Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler predicted the changes would lead to a shift away from bulk-billing, where a doctor bills Medicare directly for the service, to private billing, where the doctor charges the patient the full cost of the visit in advance, and the patient claims a rebate for part of this cost from Medicare.

Regular GP visits, not budget cuts, help keep health costs down

Date December 11, 2014 - 12:00AM

James Best

From an Australian patient's perspective, there are two things that matter in our country's health system: regardless of my financial situation I can see a doctor when I want to, and if something bad happens to me medically I will be looked after.
The first of these is looking shaky after this week. From next July, if the government has its way, many of us will have to look in our wallet and decide whether we can afford, this week, to go to the doctor. Another nail in the coffin of universal health care.
There will be four consequences of this, the first two the government wants. Individuals (i.e. you) will have to pay more to see a GP, and the government will save some money, at least initially. However, it is saving money in a very unintelligent way.  In the long run we will see the third and fourth consequences: health outcomes in the country will worsen, and finally, the health system will actually end up costing more.
How can this be?

It gets harder to provide quality care each year. The GP co-payment could sink my practice

We have impersonal medicine because GPs have to churn patients to cover costs. The co-payment will make things much harder for smaller practices
My general practice is like the TV show Cheers: a place where everybody knows your name. My reception and nursing staff know the quirks of the majority our patients. We know Mrs Jones will need a taxi to take her to her appointment. It’s easier for our staff to book Mr Verona’s high resolution thoracic CT scan for him, because of his thick accent and poor hearing. I am grateful for having such good staff, pay them above the award and try to provide them with a yearly pay rise. Now I’m unsure if I can afford to keep them.
Each year it has become progressively harder to maintain a level of service at a time when the ageing population presents with complex, chronic conditions. To prevent an expensive hospitalisation, patients require more time and resources than ever. General practice sometimes seems like a death by a thousand cuts.

Strong medicine for GPs

Adam Creighton

AMID the outrage this week over the supposed unaffordability of paying $5 to visit the doctor, it is worth noting that more than 60 per cent of GP visits in Melbourne’s up-market electorate of Kooyong are bulk-billed, and more than 67 per cent in the salubrious Wentworth seat of Sydney. That equates to tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer support each year for doctors’ visits for people who probably can afford to chip in.
Since May the Abbott government has been embroiled in a political battle to make all of the electors of Wentworth and Kooyong, along with every other Australian, pay $7 to visit the doctor — part of a set of health reforms to help return the budget to surplus by 2023. These were designed to save a government facing more than $100 billion of deficits over the next four years around $3.5bn across the same period.
Nationally, more than 80 per cent of the 130 million-plus general practitioner services each year are “free” for patients, courtesy of Medicare, up from about 67 per cent a decade ago thanks in part — somewhat ironically — to Tony Abbott’s policies as health minister aimed to boost rates of bulk-billing.

$100 GP fees in two years?

Date December 14, 2014 - 12:15AM

Julia Medew

The average upfront cost of a 15-minute consultation with a GP could exceed $100 within two years under the federal government's proposed changes to Medicare, the Doctors Reform Society says.
The  society, a lobby group that supports publicly funded universal health care, says the Abbott government's plan to reduce the Medicare rebate for doctors by $5 and freeze it until 2018 is promoting a "return to a failed privatised system of the past" with doctors free to charge what the market will bear.
Society national president and GP Con Costa said extending the current two-year-long freeze on Medicare rebates for another four years would hit GP clinics' budgets hard, driving many doctors away from bulk-billing and  into increasing their fees for patients who do not have concession cards.

9 reasons why GPs are being screwed by government

The government’s revised co-payment plan is a dog’s breakfast. Here are 9 reasons why the proposal has angered Australian GPs.


Prime-minister Abbott’s reference to sausage machine medicine is insulting. If the government is unhappy about the way some clinics churn through patients, they should do something about it, but not punish all Australian GPs – and patients.
Besides, it looks like the government didn’t do their homework properly: A recent report debunked the myth that GP care is ‘6-minute medicine’. The authors of the report: “If people feel they must ignore the wide range, and refer to the length of GP consultations in one phrase, it would be far more accurate to call it ‘14 minute medicine’.”

Pharmacy Related Articles.

Uncertain times: the year in review

9 December, 2014 Chris Brooker
How will pharmacy look back on 2014? Will it be remembered as a watershed year where the push for remunerated professional services finally reached a critical mass? Will it be remembered as the year the profession's financial position bottomed out? Will it be remembered as a year of bickering and sniping within the profession and from a range of critics?

If the cap fits

In 2013, proposals were first aired by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia for a cap on Home Medicines Reviews numbers to control what they claimed was exploitation and overuse of the system.
The deferring of this plan turned out to be only temporary, with the profession being jolted by the announcement on the eve of APP 2014 that the HMR program would indeed be capped, at 20 HMRs per accredited service provider per month.
Despite Guild claims that most would not be impacted by the caps, accredited pharmacists were outraged. In March, leading clinical pharmacist Debbie Rigby said she had heard lots of "open hostility and anger" about the decision.

Editorial -Wednesday, December 10: Woolworths wants it all

Tim Howard | 10th Dec 2014 3:00 AM
NEWSAGENTS are the latest to face losing a key part of their business to the ever expanding reach of the supermarket giants.
Butchers and bakers have succumbed, and if there was a mass market for it, so would candlestick makers.
Already the poor newsagents have lost the attraction of being the sole place to buy newspapers and magazines. Now, the supermarkets are after the best attraction the agents have of luring customers into their shops.
While you might have sympathy for their plight, you should be worried about Woolworths' plans to sell pharmaceuticals from the supermarket shelf.
I also have to say reading all the articles I still have no idea what is actually going to happen with the Budget at the end of the day.
As pointed out on Insiders a few weeks ago the next chance to have progress  in February, 2015 - and after MYEFO last Monday and  the next Budget!
One wonders for how much longer this will go on?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It Looks Like Using An EHR Can Cost Time But Also Reduce Errors To A Significant Degree.

These appeared a little while ago:

Doctors Say Electronic Records Waste Time

A new study shows that technology has slowed doctors' work.

By Kimberly Leonard Sept. 8, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. EDT + More
Doctors complain that they waste an average of 48 minutes a day, or four hours a week, when they record their patients’ health information into digital records, a new study shows.
The results were collected in a small survey, whose findings were put into a letter that was published Monday in the online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine. A draft of the letter was released Monday to a group of health care reporters at the National Library of Medicine. Dr. Clement McDonald, lead author of the study and director of the NLM Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, presented the letter, “The Use of Internist's Free Time by Ambulatory Care Electronic Medical Record Systems.”
The findings came from a 19-question survey that the American College of Physicians sent in December 2012 to 900 ACP members and 102 non-members. They received a 53.6 percent response rate; respondents had used 61 different EMR systems.
The mean loss for trainees was lower than the average, at 18 minutes a day. “We can only speculate as to whether better computer skills, shorter (half-day) clinic assignments with proportionately less exposure to EMR time costs, or other factors account for the trainees’ smaller per-day time loss,” the study read.
Proponents of electronic health records say they have the potential to reduce medical errors, better coordinate care, and save time. Some say the technology, however, hasn't reached that point. “It simply takes longer [to enter patient information into a computer]," says McDonald, who is a proponent of EHRs and was among a group which created the first system in the country. "There is already so much to do and you have to look at patient safety.” Deep consequences can come out of one typo, he adds, and adding another data point carries additional time cost.
McDonald expected the results from the study because he has heard complaints from doctors who said they were spending extra time with EHRs after work, he says.
The time lost, the letter points out, could decrease access to care, given the opportunity cost of meeting with a patient during that time. It also could increase the cost of care. “Policy makers should consider these time costs in future EHR mandates,” McDonald says.
The full article is here:
And to point out just why it might be worth it we have this.

ONC Data Brief: Physicians Report EHRs Prevent Medication Errors

September 5, 2014
Three times as many physicians report that electronic health records (EHRs) are preventing a potential medication error than causing one, according to a newly released data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
The data brief used the 2013 National Ambulatory Medical Care Physician Workflow Survey to assess the physician-reported impacts of EHR use – both positive and negative – on quality and patient safety related outcomes. More than half of the approximately 11,000 physician respondents reported that the EHR alerted them to a critical laboratory value and 45 percent said it alerted them to a potential medical error. Only 15 percent said it led to a medical error.
See here:
So the bottom line is slower but better with the EHR. I hope it is really true!

This Seems To Be Pretty Good News For Those Ramping Up Hospital Automation. Some Actual Evidence EHRs Save Lives.

This appeared a little while ago.

Are EHRs Life Savers? Maybe So, According to Preliminary Research

August 25, 2014
Can the adoption and implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) be tied to hospital performance and lowered mortality rates? While we might be a bit of time away from being able to make that precise claim, new research does suggest a measurable beneficial relationship.
The findings were revealed by HIMSS Analytics, the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and Healthgrades, an online resource for comprehensive information about physicians and hospitals. The value of EHRs has long been discussed, but until now evaluations have lacked comprehensive clinical data, according to HIMSS officials.
Using HIMSS Analytics’ Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) and mortality rate measures collected by Healthgrades across 19 unique procedure and condition based clinical cohorts, the analysis found that hospitals with advanced EHR capabilities (as reflected in high EMRAM scores) demonstrated significantly improved actual mortality rates, most notably for heart attack, respiratory failure, and small intestine surgery.
Most cohorts experienced improvement in predicted mortality rates when compared to hospitals with lower EMRAM scores. The predicted mortality rate is an indicator of the level of documentation and capture of patient risk factors that are correlated to increased risk of mortality.  In total, 4,583 facility records were selected from the HIMSS Analytics database, representing the total number of facilities with complete data from 2010 through 2012.
Lots more here:
A very interesting study that is well worth a read. We are gradually seeing more clarity emerging as to what works as well as to what the risks are as will. A balanced view will emerge - but it may still be a good while yet before that happens!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It Seems All Governments Just Don’t Want To See If Their Health IT Is Working. Why I Wonder?

This appeared a little while ago.

NSW Ambulance losing revenue from billing system issues: Auditor

eHealth NSW also chastised in new report.

eHealth NSW also came under the auditor's fire for having half of its IT projects running behind time and for failing to review completed projects. The body - which provides governance for NSW Health’s IT strategy and delivery - was established in July this year when the functions of HealthShare NSW were transferred to the new organisation.
Hehir had recommended last year that HealthShare conduct post-implementation reviews of IT projects but today said nothing had been done.
“Formal post implementation reviews have not been conducted on any completed or substantially completed projects for the past two years,” he said.
‘These include the Oracle R12 upgrade, integrated medical imaging program, infrastructure strategy 2, state-wide management reporting tool, the business information program, the billing and revenue system and the payroll system.”
He urged the agency to start reviewing completed IT projects as soon as possible in order to assess whether they had achieved their intended outcomes, whether project management practices had been effective, whether the new systems could be further enhanced, and to ascertain any lessons able to be learned.
The auditor recommended eHealth NSW set up a process to ensure completed IT projects are reviewed by June 30 next year.
Hehir also revealed that the highest security threat to the Health cluster was currently weak user and password controls.
Lots more here:
Here is the direct link to the Audit Report .pdf.
Seems there needs to be much more scrutiny on and reporting of just how eHealth in NSW is actually performing.
What a good idea!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 15th December, 2014.

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

Well we are approaching the ‘silly season’ so we can all start relaxing and planning for an excellent Christmas and an even better 2015.
Interesting there is still some interesting material being reported so a browse through the headlines is worth the time spent I reckon.
CU in the New Year.

NSW Ambulance losing revenue from billing system issues: Auditor

eHealth NSW also chastised in new report.

The Ambulance Service of NSW is losing millions in annual revenue as a result of ongoing problems with its new patient billing system, the state’s Auditor-General revealed today.
The service has experienced continuing issues since implementing its new patient billing system in 2012-13, following initial functionality and data migration issues.
In his annual report to parliament on the Health cluster [pdf], NSW Auditor-General Grant Hehir today revealed that because ambulance transport records did not completely transfer from the dispatch system to the billing system, the NSW ambulance service failed to collect $3.9 million in revenue for the 2013-14 year.
The agency was owed $99.4 million by patients at the end of June this year, of which $86.2 million is unlikely to be paid, the auditor found.

RACGP leads efforts to curb prescription drug-related deaths

8 December 2014
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is leading efforts to curb the alarming number of overdoses involving prescription drugs which contribute to more deaths in some states each year than car accidents.
The RACGP recently released its Electronic assistance with managing abuse of prescription drugs discussion paper calling for a national implementation of the Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) system for prescription drug management.
RACGP President, Dr Frank R Jones said a large number of prescription drug-related deaths in Australia could be avoided if GPs had access to a national electronic recording and reporting system for controlled drugs.

Should you bet on Telstra Corporation Ltd for 2015?

By Darryl Daté-Shappard - December 9, 2014 | More on: TLS
It looks like some stocks can keep climbing and ignore the relatively flat gains of the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) (Index: ^AXJO).
Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) is near new 52-week highs. The telecom giant is coming off of solid earnings growth in FY 2014, but what can investors expect from it in 2015?
Investors should be looking for growth catalysts that can propel the company and its stock to higher levels. Telstra has three parts in its growth story.
Asian expansion
Australia’s population is about 23 million people, yet just on our doorstep are many times more people in South East Asia. The growth opportunities are big for a technologically advanced telecom company like Telstra. In its recent investor day presentation, the company showed that many emerging countries in Asia still are only up to 2G mobile networks. It plans to put its multi-billion dollar war chest towards acquisitions and development in the region to expand its footprint and work with locally established telecoms.  The company projects that as much as a third of revenue will come from its growing Asian business by 2020.
e-health development
Combining healthcare and data management, the company has created a new division called Telstra Health. It sees great growth potential for this business which allows medical professionals and patients to work together online to monitor, test and analyse health and fitness. Health tests and results can be managed in real-time, improving the quality of medical services. Telstra thinks that this could be one of its top revenue generators within five years.

John Durie’s CEO survey 2014: David Thodey, Telstra

John Durie

1: Has the corporate outlook improved and if so what are your investment plans?
The operating and economic environment for many businesses across a diverse range of industry sectors remains soft, reflected in the fact that business confidence has lost ground according to the latest business surveys. This vindicates the RBA’s current position of sustaining monetary stimulus by keeping the cash rate lower for longer to shore up growth prospects. Domestic GDP growth forecasts below-trend with generally sluggish demand conditions and soft earnings weighing on the growth outlook. This is despite well-documented strength in the housing market. On the global front growth outlook is now more uncertain which is also weighing on domestic growth prospects. While the outlook for the US, Britain and some emerging market economies such as India remain favourable; this is largely offset by weak eurozone and Japanese growth, while China is expected to continue to grow on a slower trajectory. Having said that our position on growth remains positive – we continue to look at ways we can grow through investing in new businesses and growing in new geographic markets. Our aim is to continue to build on the good progress we have made in the areas of software, e-health, network applications and media, and our growth into the ever-important Asian region.

Older Australians: Care must be integrated through PCEHR

By admin Aged Care Dec 11, 2014
The National E- Health Translation Authority (NEHTA) yesterday announced that it will offer funding to private hospitals in order to integrate their systems to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).
While this is welcome news it is essential that aged service providers are also included. Integration between the acute setting and home/residential aged care brings with it great opportunity and the real promise of better care and a significant reduction in costs.
“Peak body for age service providers, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) has strongly advocated that age services be recognised, considering age service providers come second only to the state health system in volume.

Heath Ledger style prescription drug overdose deaths could be stopped by new software alerting doctors to prescription drug abusers

  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  • News Corp Australia Network
  • December 13, 2014 9:30PM
A POTENT mix of six prescription medications slayed Batman star Heath Ledger, now new medical software aims to save others from that fate.
The Academy award winning actor died accidentally from a prescription drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment in 2008 after taking a mix of medicines for insomnia, anxiety, pain, and the common cold.
Between 1,300 and 2,500 Australians a year are estimated to die from similar prescription drug misuse, more than those who die on our roads.
The medicines monitoring body NPS Medicinewise reports the number of opioid prescriptions subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) surged from 2.4 million in 1992 to 7 million in 2007.
10 December 2014, 1.02am AEDT

To deal with chronic disease, patients will need better mobile health apps

David Glance
Of all the potential calamities facing humanity, the one that few people can argue about is that of the global population that is growing in numbers, age, size and incidence of chronic disease. In Australia, 3.6 million people have diabetes or pre-diabetes. In the US, that number was 29.1 million in 2012, or 9.3% of the population. The number of people with pre-diabetes in 2012 however was a staggering 86 million.
Diabetes is the 6th leading cause of death in Australia and the 7th in the US.

More doctors won’t work

It is no wonder then that 8% of all consultations that GPs deal with in Australia concern diabetes. GPs spend on average twice as long with diabetes patients and they visit twice as many times. The incidence of diabetes is rapidly outpacing the health services’ ability to deal with it. Diabetes in Australia is growing at 7% per year, whilst the number of GPs is only growing at 3%.

NetComm Wireless Launches the n-Hub to Transform Healthcare

2014-12-10 09:00
SYDNEY, Dec. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- NetComm Wireless Limited (ASX: NTC), a leading developer of wireless Machine-to-Machine (M2M) devices, will today enter the health industry with the launch of its NetComm Wireless n-Hub (NTC-20) at the 2014 mHealth Summit in Washington, DC . Designed to meet rising global demand for M2M healthcare solutions, the n-Hub connects diverse Bluetooth and WiFi enabled mHealth devices to the speed and coverage of cellular networks.
The n-Hub will facilitate healthcare sector innovation as the global ecosystem of mHealth devices grows to exceed 650 million by 2020. The device enables secure data to be sent from the remote patient or client to their practitioner.
"The n-Hub is a game-changer for the global healthcare sector. It combines simplicity with open system flexibility to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and ultimately improve patient outcomes. The n-Hub has the capacity to drive innovation across a wide range of applications such as monitoring the health of elderly relatives, post surgery patient care and keeping tabs on personal health, to name a few," said David Stewart , Managing Director and CEO, NetComm Wireless.

Privacy fears keeping doctors offline

5 December, 2014 Kate Aubusson
Australian doctors are avoiding social media and online communications with patients for fear of privacy breaches and overstepping doctor–patient boundaries, a new survey shows.
Doctors were yet to immerse themselves online, with many feeling they were unable to protect their personal and private information online, found the survey of 187 Australian doctors from all specialties.
The findings pointed to a "surprising reluctance to engage with new media despite the demands of the community", reported the researchers at the University of Sydney.
Three in five doctors reported being uncomfortable about interacting with patients who had accessed their personal information, according to findings in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Medicare - Australian Organ Donor Register and Pharmaceutical Benefits Report December 2014 Release now available for download

Created on Thursday, 11 December 2014
NEHTA has released the specifications for the Medicare - Australian Organ Donor Register and Medicare - Pharmaceutical Benefits Report for December 2014.
These specifications can be downloaded from the NEHTA website via the following links:

Federal Health Minister officially opens St Stephen's

8th Dec 2014 10:38 AM
UPDATE: Australia's first fully integrated digital hospital has been officially opened by Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton.
More than 100 guests attended the ceremony at St Stephen's Private Hospital which Mr Dutton described as "world class".
"St Stephen's has raised the bar for all healthcare providers by embracing technology literally before the foundations were laid," he said
"It will be a showcase for the improvements that eHealth information technology can make for health care and patient outcomes.

Australia’s First Digital Hospital

Australia’s first hospital with fully integrated, digital eHealth capability has been officially opened.
Page last updated: 08 December 2014

Joint Media Release

The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Health
Minister for Sport

Keith Pitt MP
Federal Member for Hinkler

8 December 2014
Australia’s first hospital with fully integrated, digital eHealth capability was officially opened today.
St Stephen’s Private Hospital, operated by UnitingCare Health in Hervey Bay, has been created by expanding the regional hospital with a new, three storey inpatient hospital with 96 acute care inpatient beds and three additional operating theatres.
Health Minister Peter Dutton said St Stephen’s was a world class hospital which showcased the future of health care.
“St Stephen’s has raised the bar for all healthcare providers by embracing the technology literally before the foundations were laid,” Mr Dutton said.

UnitingCare opens Australia’s first digital hospital in Queensland

Chris Griffith

AUSTRALIA’S first fully integrated digital hospital officially opened yesterday in Queensland with expectations that it will transform healthcare across the nation.
Run by UnitingCare Health, the $96 million St Stephen’s Hospital at Hervey Bay is the first local hospital to computerise everything from diet to dialysis and integrate its operations, equipment and services. It includes more than 300km of fibre-optic cable.
Director of medical services Monica Trujillo said machines fed data into patients’ records directly when they underwent a test. Food was ordered and managed electronically, and medication dispensed in a paperless environment.

Medical history right alongside TV shows and lunch menu

Jessica Grewal | 9th Dec 2014 5:00 AM
AS A PATIENT at Hervey Bay's digital hospital, Beverly Kersnovske's entire medical history is at her fingertips - right alongside her favourite television shows and today's lunch menu.
The 86-year-old, who recently returned to St Stephen's Private Hospital after a stay last month, is quickly learning what it's like to be cared for in a touch screen environment.
Her expert navigation of the online entertainment system came in handy yesterday as she showed Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton the ropes ahead of the hospital's official opening.

St Stephens fully digital hospital lead by clinical transformation

The first fully integrated digital hospital in Australia officially opened today in Hervey Bay, Queensland. St Stephens Private Hospital is a 96 bed UnitingCare Health facility, costing $96 million and partly funded by a $47 million Australian government grant.
Health minister Peter Dutton opened the new facility, describing it as the future of healthcare. 
“St Stephen’s has raised the bar for all healthcare providers by embracing the technology literally before the foundations were laid,” Dutton said.“It will be a showcase for the improvements that eHealth information technology can make for health care and patient outcomes. Digital technology can make health care far more efficient and more effective for patients and providers."
The key to the new facility is its digital integration, based around 28 Cerner applications with the Cerner Millennium EMR at the core of operations.
During the opening, UnitingCare Health's executive director, Richard Royle, was presented with a certificate confirming that the hospital was the first in Australia to have been accredited with Stage 6 EMRAM certification from HIMSS, an international measure of the hospital’s digitisation and integration.

Government relaunches food rating site

8 December, 2014 Gemma Najem
The federal government has relaunched its food rating website 10 months after its controversial removal from the internet.
And the Heart Foundation has given a tick of approval to the system, which will award higher star ratings to products low in saturated fat, sugars, sodium and energy.
The website was initially launched by Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash in February but was pulled down, leading to the resignation former chief of staff Alastair Furnival.

#FHIR Updates

Posted on December 12, 2014 by Grahame Grieve
A round of links and news about progess with FHIR
Draft For Comment Posted
I have just finished posting the final version on which the current draft for comment is based:
This version of FHIR is our first serious look at what we plan to release as DSTU2 for FHIR. From here, this candidate will undergo a round of comment and testing, including the HL7 “draft for comment”, where HL7 members can comment on the content of the ballot, and also will be tested through several connectathons and other implementation projects. Following that, we will gather all the feedback, and prepare the second candidate, which will be published around the start of April. This will get another cycle of testing, and then we’ll make further changes in response. We’re planning to publish the final version of DSTU 2 around the end of June.

Wearable electronic fitness devices market still poised for strong growth

December 8, 2014
Wearable electronic devices for fitness shipments are forecast to reach 68.1 million units in 2015, down from 70 million units in 2014, according to Gartner. This temporary dip in sales will be driven by an overlap in functionality between smart wristbands, other wearable fitness monitors and smartwatches. However, the market for smart wristbands and other fitness monitors will rebound in 2016 because of versatile designs and models with lower-cost displays.
“Fitness wearables are used for tracking health, which goes hand-in-hand with fitness and wellness,” said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner. “Consumers will be able to integrate the data from most wearables into a single account where their data can be analysed using cognizant computing to provide useful insights to wearers. Funding initiatives from Qualcomm, Apple (HealthKit), Google (Google Fit), Samsung (S.A.M.I.), Microsoft, Nike and Intel, among others, will build on early innovation in wearable fitness and health monitoring and create the infrastructure for merging data relevant to health and fitness”.

Doctor rating sites ‘fundamentally flawed’

10 December, 2014 Tessa Hoffman
The rise of rate-your-doctor websites has spawned questions about how doctors should deal with negative, false or potentially defamatory reviews.
While not every bad review will be grounds for a defamation case, MDA National medicolegal expert Dr Sara Bird said it was important doctors knew where they stood.
Doctor can be rated on websites such as RateMDs, Yelp, and TrueLocal.
Rate-your-doctor sites were not only problematic, they were also "fundamentally flawed", Dr Bird wrote in the latest edition of Australian Family Physician.

Labor's NBN is no more

Labor’s NBN – the idea of a publicly owned and funded, all fibre, wholesale broadband network, is now officially dead.
It has been ill for some time, and recently terminally so, but now the high priests of the competitive market have pronounced the last rites. The new NBN has not only new (well, old actually) technologies, but a new regulatory regime that will see competition introduced and prices raised. Building a new house or buying one just built? You will have to pay.
The Government has announced the biggest changes to telecommunications regulations since the NBN was announced, with major changes to broadband policy. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Finance Minister Matthias Cormann have released a new policy document which they say “sets out a roadmap for reform in the telecommunications sector which will see several restrictive aspects of existing market regulation gradually replaced with more competition-friendly settings.”
The document sets a radically different course for the NBN. It outlines a number of proposed reforms based on the Government's response to the 53 recommendations for regulatory changes proposed earlier this year following a review carried out by an independent panel of experts chaired by Dr Michael Vertigan. The paper is here.

Jane McCredie: Machines in charge

Jane McCredie
Monday, 8 December, 2014
THE development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race, physicist Stephen Hawking warned last week.
“It would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate”, he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
Professor Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, was commenting on new machine learning technology applied to his computer-generated voice that analyses the scientist’s words to predict what he is likely to say next.
Fears that machines might take over the world have long been the stuff of science fiction.

The Big Bang may have created a mirror universe where time runs backwards

  • 3 hours ago December 11, 2014 8:30AM
IT’S of the greatest scientific puzzles persisting to this day: how and why does time move forward?
In their bid to finally solve this mystery, researchers have come up with a new theory. They now believe that the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago may have actually created two universes, one a “mirror” of the other, the Scientific American reports.
Yep, the universe (sorry — universes!) as we know it may have just gotten a whole lot bigger!
So if time moves forward in our universe, it makes sense that it may run backwards in the other “mirror” universe, right?