Have you ever heard of Shakopee?

I hadn’t until I started receiving emails on a regular basis from Shakopee High School – I was apparently a parent at the school!

Looking into this more closely, I discovered that Shakopee is a city in Scott County, Minnesota. Somehow, the local high school had obtained my private Gmail address and inadvertently added me to the parent email list.

I could now tell you a lot about a school I have never seen, much less heard of the city where it is located. But if you wanted to know when the students were having their flu shots, when the school leaders were meeting seniors, or perhaps which classes were cancelled or moved, I could tell you in detail. And this was separate to receiving the weekly parent updates – which arrived in my inbox promptly each Saturday morning!

As a parent at Shakopee, I never inadvertently received my phantom child’s school report, or any other personal information about him or her – come to think of it, I don’t even know if I had a girl or a boy!

I was reminded of Shakopee, however, when I read a story recently about a man who had been receiving, via fax, highly confidential patient referrals sent erroneously to him by a medical clinic. The referrals, as you would expect, contained detailed patient records including mental health plans. What was disturbing is that the man had read the records and knew deeply personal information about these patients’ circumstances.

Then just last week, I rang my doctor to ask for a copy of my blood test results, only to be told that I had to collect a hardcopy in person…or…they could be faxed! I haven’t actually seen a fax for the best part of a decade, so it is fascinating to think that they are still widely used in the health profession.

These experiences highlight the need for the health sector to urgently move away from outdated and insecure modes of communication.

We simply cannot have a digital health system unless we move to modern means of digital communication with all the underpinning security and associated protocols. The Australian Digital Health Agency has a Secure Messaging Program underway and is working with a number of commercial providers to bring solutions to the industry.

Both the Shakopee and patient referral incidences show, however, that while the medium of communication can certainly be improved and made dramatically more secure, we need to ensure that we think about how to address the risk of misdirection – is the recipient the intended recipient? I think we will need more advanced technology to ensure this is the case.

Our projects have commenced!

I am very pleased to report that, since my last update, we have now commenced project activity. In our September newsletter, we feature details of our first three projects. These will soon be followed by other projects involving more and more of our participants.

In a previous letter to our participants, I expressed my aim to have all of our 76 participants involved in our project pipeline by the end of this year. The DHCRC team continues to push projects towards implementation and delivery on a daily basis.

Board nominations

Nominations for the DHCRC Board closed last week, with 18 applications received from a mix of non-independent and independent candidates. Our Remuneration and Nominations Committee will now meet to consider the applications and hopefully put forward a Board of either seven or nine Directors, on which members will vote at a general meeting.

Strategic planning meeting

Last week the DHCRC team, together with our Flagship Research and Education Directors, met in Sydney for two days to discuss activities within our CRC and to review our research and education strategies. (See us all pictured below).

A major outcome of this meeting was bringing everyone up to speed with the multitude of activities we have currently underway, and also to ensure that our research and education activities are aligned to our Flagships.

We will shortly be launching a Participants Only area of our recently revised website – this will provide all DHCRC participants with more details about our developing project pipeline, as well as detailed information on our participants and the process of starting and delivering projects.

Digital health survey

A major focus of DHCRC is in the area of capacity building and education. In addition to recently releasing our Education Program, we also undertook Phase 1 of our survey on digital health education and training in Australia. We received excellent feedback on this, in particular from our industry participants and many education providers outside DHCRC. We thank all respondents for their input.

We will soon release Phase 2 of our survey and target an even wider audience.

I am hoping this will culminate with the National Digital Health Workforce and Education Summit we are co-hosting with the Australian Digital Health Agency on 20 November in Sydney. The Summit will see the release of the National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap, together with the complementary results from our survey work. From this, DHCRC will develop its own strategy and use this to guide its investment in capacity building and education over its life.

Staff update

Finally, I wanted to make you aware of some staff changes within DHCRC.

As previously advised in our August newsletter, Lee-Ann Breger left us at the end of August to commence a new role at the iMOVE CRC.

At the end of September, Dr Ben Hachey (our Head of Data Science Innovation) will also be leaving us – coincidentally, he is from Minnesota…hmmm, I wonder if there is some connection there! Ben will be joining an AI development company focused on healthcare, to drive the development of their products. We thank him for his great service to DHCRC and wish him the best of luck.

Recently, we were joined by a new Program Manager, Mark Bucciarelli, who will be working with many of you to drive your projects through the pipeline. Mark has joined us from PWC where he was a Manager in their Application Services Delivery team and NSW Health Technology Consulting Team. One of his most recent projects was the development of a Digital Strategy for a tier one organisation that has acquired a major private hospital group. Mark was also the Project Delivery Manager for the Regional eHealth Project, Far North Queensland, in which he led the implementation of an eMR across the Torres Strait islands and mainland Far North Queensland.

We also welcome Dr Isobel Frean, who is joining us as our Senior Consultant, Digital Health. Isobel started her career as a clinical nurse working across the UK, US and Australia. Completing a PhD at the University of Wollongong in clinical information management and governance, she moved to the UK and became Head of Health Informatics for Bupa UK. Returning to Australia, she was most recently the Head of Clinical Systems Capability at Bupa Australia and New Zealand, where she built eHealth capability across Bupa’s Australian and New Zealand businesses. Based in Melbourne, Isobel will be working on selected projects and initiatives with a number of our participants across Australia.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any concerns, ideas, good news or otherwise!

Dr Victor Pantano
CEO, Digital Health CRC
[email protected]