The latest insights from our Health Law team: 

Wheels in motion for the government’s new Health Information Gateway

Major consulting firm, Deloitte, has been tasked with delivering the government’s new Health Information Gateway. The new gateway is the first phase in the Australian Digital Health Agency’s (ADHA) large-scale digital health infrastructure modernisation program, the National Digital Health Strategy.

The gateway will provide a platform for exchanging and accessing health information such as vaccination and aged care data and will connect healthcare providers with My Health Record and other digital services. The ADHA says that the gateway will be able to interact with health information exchange technologies used by the medical software industry as well as state and territory health departments.

The gateway will also support various government authentication mechanisms so that information can be more easily and securely shared across the “health ecosystem”.

Once implemented, the gateway is intended to reduce costs and minimise technical and operational complexities. ADHA CEO Amanda Cattermole stated, “…while our national digital health infrastructure has already delivered significant benefits for Australians, it is now time to modernise and unlock the potential that new technologies offer.” The modernisation of the national digital infrastructure is ADHA’s most important strategic focus for 2021.

The timeframe for service delivery of the new gateway is set for September of this year. The National Digital Health Strategy aims to achieve its seven strategic priority outcomes by 2022.

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) has released its first Pharmacy Forecast Australia 2021. Included in the publication are survey results relating to the “electronic revolution” in Australian pharmacies through 2021. The key findings of the survey includes:

  • more than 50% of the respondents believe specialised health informatics pharmacists will drive clinical patient safety in 75% of hospitals;
  • 56% of respondents predict that electronic medication management (EMM) systems will be implemented in half of the Australian hospitals over the next 5 years; and
  • 61% of respondents believe that a quarter of hospitals in Australia will implement automated dispensing cabinets (ADC) in their inpatient medication supply.

The results of the survey indicate that pharmacists must be involved in the process of new technological developments in health to “emphasise the continuity of care and maintain data integrity”. The Forecast is timely as last month the Australian Government announced that $11.7 million will be invested in medical research for pharmacists to support patients with the safe use of medicines and risk prevention.

To read the Forecast by SHPA, click here.

Deakin University have published the results of a study which assessed the price promotions offered by major quick service restaurant chains in Australian from an obesity prevention perspective.

The study was a cross-sectional audit of ten of the largest QSR chains in Australia in which researchers collected information regarding temporary price promotions and ‘combination deals’ offered by each chain over thirteen consecutive weeks in 2019–2020. The researchers monitored the price promotions, including ‘limited time offers’, combination meal deals or combo deals and then assessed the healthiness of the items on promotion based on government-endorsed criteria.

Researchers concluded that price promotions were ubiquitous in major QSR chains in Australia and provide incentives to consume high levels of energy and over-consume unhealthy food and drink.

Deakin has called for policy action to restrict price promotions on unhealthy foods and ensure lower-energy default items as part of combination deals should be included as part of efforts to improve population diets and address obesity in Australia.

To review the article titled “Price promotions offered by quick service restaurants in Australia: analysis from an obesity prevention perspective”, published by Cambridge University, click here.

Wind turbine noise is not (necessarily) a nuisance

On 1 July 2021, the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment Act 2021 (Vic) (Amending Act) came into effect, to specifically exclude noise or emissions from wind turbines at wind energy facilities from being a nuisance under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) (Act).

The amendment was made to Part 6, Division 1 of the Act, which deals with regulatory provisions administered by councils, of which nuisances that are liable to be dangerous to health or offensive are part. This includes nuisances caused by animals or waste. Section 58 of the Act was amended to include a new subsection 2A to specifically exclude from the division ‘nuisances arising from or constituted by any noise or emission from a wind turbine at a wind energy facility’.

The explanatory memorandum for the Amending Act states that this change was made ahead of the changes to the Environment Protection Act 2017 (Vic) which are due to commence on 1 December 2021 (after a delay under COVID-19 legislation). The amendment seeks to avoid duplication between the two legislative regimes. Once amended, the Environment Protection Act 2017 will deal with these kinds of nuisances or emissions.

The explanatory memorandum of the Act is available here if you wish to see the changes. More information on the Act is available here.