Relighting the Ehealth Fires

It’s been a while since my last post for a number of reasons. To be honest the Australian ehealth scene had started to become a little too toxic for my liking. There was a lot of hostility from various factions about the ehealth activity by the government, and the attacks had started to become personal and unprofessional. As a result I decided to lay low, so as not to get dragged into a dispute that had become more about personalities than philosophies. I did continue to tweet and use LinkedIn to get some of my opinions out there, but it is not as fulfilling as typing into your own blog.

Today I attended the Health-e-Nation conference on the Gold Coast run by my good friend Sally Glass from CHIK Services. I have attended it for the last few years, and whilst it has always been one of the better conferences in Australia, I suspect I was starting to get jaded by the huge promise of ehealth in Australia and the lack of obvious delivery. I was actually more disturbed by the negative press it was getting, the attacks on people who from my perspective were doing the best they could under the circumstances. However today I walked out of the event with a new level of enthusiasm and belief that we really are doing the right thing, and optimism that Australia may well take the world leading position in ehealth and healthcare it so rightly deserved.

What inspired me was a couple of talks, one by the new minister for health in the federal government Tanya Plibersek, which recognised the need to share in the potential financial bounty of a more efficient system for those hard working primary care providers who are the back bone of it, and by Jane Halton, the secretary of the department of health who demonstrated an amazing amount of energy, belief and optimism in how the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) will enable a new paradigm in healthcare delivery in Australia.

Their talks were supported by great talks by Dr Jonathan Shaffer from Cleveland Clinic who showed us what a properly enabled healthcare system is capable of when you implement effectively and bring your clinicians along for the ride, and Prof Ricky Richardson from the UK who painted  a great picture of what a patient centric system can do for patients, clinicians and payers.

So while sitting at the Gold Coast airport waiting for my flight home, I pulled out the laptop and started typing, and this is the result.

I unequivocally state that I believe the Australian PCEHR project has the potential to transform, for the better the healthcare system in Australia. It won’t be a straight line improvement graph, it’s more likely to be a hockey stick with a bunch of bumps on the way, but if we the clinicians, the technologists, and the consumers join in a spirit of positive collaboration, it really has the potential to change things.

As Dr Nick Buckmaster from Gold Coast Hospital said, it is a small first step, but it is a mightily important one towards a better coordinated collaborative learning health care system. The next step is to develop a Personally Controlled Care Coordination System which will leverage off the PCEHR. That is what will really transform healthcare, but you can’t get there without taking the initial steps, and the PCEHR is one of those. The others like national licensure, ubiquitous connectivity, and ultimately reimbursement reform are also important, but we have to learn to savour each small step forward.

4 Responses to “Relighting the Ehealth Fires”

  1. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    George, I hope your new found enthusiasm is well founded, and hopefully you are correct about Australian eHealth finding its place in the sun. My biggest concern is that Governments and their respective bureaucracies have a shocking track record in this area – and in many other fields of endeavour. Perhaps we need to back off “big bang” projects and consider taking smaller steps, which might enable the clinicians to come along and hence improve the chances of success. With the major problems of many large projects both here and overseas, I fail to understand why Governments of all colours think they can do the same thing and get a different outcome. The definition of insanity, is it not?

  2. Greg Mundy Says:

    Well said George I too was getting very tired of all the Jonahs who seemed to nourish themselves on the negative. Rome would never have been built…

    Interesting things are happening in e-Health in the ambulance world and are saving lives

  3. georgemargelis Says:

    Paul, I understand where your cynicism comes from, many of the state based systems have had the issues you note.
    An interesting twist we heard yesterday was the acceptance that the PCEHR is going to be a journey. There are not unrealistic expectations of uptake, it will be a slow journey of discovery, and as Nick Buckmaster pointed out in itself it is not the clinical tool, but rather an underpinning for a yet to be built collaboration and coordination system for healthcare delivery. It does however lay the ground work and the concept of personally controlled points us towards a more patient centric model.
    It does still require a larger underlying healthcare reform agenda to be agreed upon.

  4. georgemargelis Says:

    Greg, thanks for the feedback.
    The ambulance is a great example of Ehealth innovation hidden from public view. Having experienced the table size sheet we used to get from the ambos back in my hospital days it is great to now see how that system has gone electronic. Once you add the data from the PCEHR into that record automatically the ambos and paramedics will be able to concentrate more on delivering care, and less on data collection.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: