Along with “novel coronavirus”, “social distancing” and “hydroxychloroquine”, “contact tracing apps” will go down as one of the most notable additions to the pandemic lexicon. They have certainly proved controversial as privacy concerns run headlong into public health necessities, and few if any have proved overly useful.
New Zealand's COVID Tracer app hasn't been hugely successful so far with fewer than 600,000 downloads, but thankfully it hasn't really needed to be. However, with one eye on the second wave plaguing Victoria, the NZ government has announced it is going to trial a new wearable Bluetooth alternative called CovidCard that has been strongly promoted by business groups and some academics.
Pulse+IT's top story for this week was the announcement that the ACT had chosen Epic's EMR for the territory's ambitious digital health program. This came as little surprise as the health service had used the term “big bang implementation” at a vendor briefing not long after the release of the tender last year.
The most successful big bang in Australian healthcare – the only one, come to think of it – has been at the Royal Children's Hospital, which went live with Epic in 2016. RCH's neighbours in the Parkville precinct will be girding their loins next weekend for their big bang, with Epic set to go live at Royal Melbourne, Royal Women's and Peter Mac on Saturday, August 8.
Debate over telehealth continued this week as the new restrictions ordered by the Department of Health came into force in a hurry. Some online appointment booking services are now asking patients trying to book a telehealth conference if they have seen a GP at that practice in the previous 12 months, with one reader telling us she had tried to book a telehealth conference to get a new referral but was knocked back because she hadn't presented there in person in over a year.
We had a lot of debate on the topic on our blog from last week, with numerous examples given of different cohorts of patients, especially vulnerable groups, who will now be prevented from accessing MBS-funded telehealth services just when they were finally given access to them. In an article in this week's MJA Insight, Elwood Family Practice GP Andrew Baird detailed a number of cases where vulnerable patients will be disadvantaged by the new rules and provides a great deal of food for thought.