After four years and about $1.4 billion, the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has negotiated two deals that might see the needle finally move on the utility and awareness of the My Health Record.
The deals could set the scene for tangible progress on a project that has been controversial and widely condemned by medical IT experts and doctors as a waste of time and money.
In a hugely symbolic turnaround, Sonic Healthcare will become the first private-sector provider to upload pathology reports directly to the MyHR. And over the next few weeks, the ADHA will be releasing an industry offer for all private pathology companies in Australia to connect.
That Sonic is joining the program should put a good deal of pressure on the other major pathology groups to roll over and join the program. If this happens then the MyHR will very quickly go from having very little useful information to having quite a bit.
Pathology results currently mostly reside on pieces of paper overflowing onto the floor next to fax machines in doctor surgeries, or locked within their desktop patient management systems. If Sonic and all the other major pathology providers agree to join the MyHR, then, combined with the introduction of the ‘opt out’ system, most patients will be able to access their results at any time, and so too will doctors, whether they be in hospitals, ED rooms or general practice.
Dr Michael Harrison, chief executive of Sullivan and Nicolaides Path in Queensland – a Sonic company – said of the initiative: “As a company we see value in ensuring every Australian with a MyHR and their doctors can view their pathology on their record.”
Primary Health Care, which is the second elephant in the private-pathology market, is not part of this annoucement. But with Sonic’s immediate past CEO of Clinical Services, Malcolm Parmenter, joining Primary as CEO in September, it is hard to see it holding back for long. Parmenter and Primary have both committed to patient-centric models of care, and information-sharing is a big part of such models.
Dr Nathan Pinskier, chair of the RACGP eHealth and Practice Systems Committee said that putting pathology into the MyHR would be very valuable where patients are being managed across a team of clinicians, “especially where a clinical referral may either not have been provided or is inaccessible”.
“As a GP, I can spend significant time contacting diagnostic providers to chase up relevant pathology reports for my patients … Having this information in a … patient’s MyHR should save time and help provide better care.”
Sullivan and Nicolaides will start uploading information to the MyHR in north Queensland, then in the Nepean Area in western Sydney and northern Tasmania.
At the same time as this announcement, the ADHA has struck a deal with the country’s largest health appointments business, HealthEngine, to upload most of the MyHR data directly into the HealthEngine mobile application. This means that once ‘opt out’ is switched on across the country, nearly one million patients will potentially have a version of the MyHR available immediately on their mobile phone, through their existing HealthEngine appointments app.
On paper, this deal is the quintessential win-win.
For the ADHA, they get immediate distribution of the MyHR to upwards of one million patients, once ‘opt out’ is running across the country, courtesy of HealthEngine’s existing users.
For HealthEngine, they add functionality to its existing app, which signficantly enhances utility. In this one deal, HealthEngine leads the way in Australian patient apps in terms of both users and functionality. It might be hard to catch, in which case it is possible that HealthEngine just sealed a deal that assures its future as the major distribution mobile hub for patients in this country.
HealthEngine’s founder, Dr Marcus Tan, is a big fan of making his service open to other data providers, and even service providers.
He told TMR that HealthEngine was taking an agnostic and open approach to the provision of important services and data to patients.
HealthEngine’s mobile app now has nearly one million downloads and about 500,000 of those users are active, making it far and away the leading network connecting patients and doctors. As such, it’s a logical place for the aggregation of other mobile patient services to take place.
But asked whether HealthEngine would be including information from other emerging services, such as MediTracker, which is providing a chronic disease management service for patients and doctors and is providing a live version of an electronic health record on a patient’s mobile, Tan said that in the case of MediTracker , it was a ‘closed’ application that would potentially fragment the system.
He explained that MediTracker was owned by Sonic and this would , in his view, restrict the service to selected patients.
MediTracker is touted as another emerging major mobile application. It is currently being rolled out through IPN practices across the country, and, at this point of time, has access to nearly two million patients.
Dr Michael Georgieff, the CEO of Precedence Health, which developed the application, has said that his intention was for MediTracker to be used by all the patients that needed it, not just IPN patients. It is a comprehensive chronic disease management system.
This seems to be a realistic goal, given that the application has been written to talk to three of the major patient management systems, not just Best Practice, which is also part-owned by Sonic.
Dr Georgieff said that MediTracker wasn’t currently contemplating going the other way and adding appointments to its app, but he did say that if it did, they would likely partner with an appointment engine as this was not MediTracker’s area of expertise.
HealthEngine and Precedence are both well-placed to be players in any patient mobile application arms race.
HealthEngine recently won ongoing funding of $27 million from a major global venture capital provider. Sequoia. That is the largest funding round that any medical start-up in Australia has received by far. The funds provide Dr Tan with deep pockets to further his vision of being the centre of mobile interaction between patients, doctors and the health system.
These two announcements, along with some other developments, make the ADHA’s recently released High Level Work Plan, look like a potentially meaningful document.