Englishman now in charge of $1 billion digital health records system doctors refuse to use

THE man who led the dumped UK digital health record system has been put in charge of Australia’s bungled $1 billion e-health record and is being paid as much as the Prime Minister to fix it.

Former journalist Tim Kelsey will be paid a total remuneration package worth $522,240 a year, almost the same as Malcolm Turnbull and just shy of the $548,360 paid to the Chief of the Navy and more than the Chief Scientist, the head of the Fair Work Commission and the Inspector General of Taxation, a remuneration tribunal determination reveals.

Tim Kelsey, the former National Director for NHS Patients and Information, has been put in charge of making the $1 billion My Health Record digital system work. Picture: Anthony Harvey / Getty Images for TechCrunch

Tim Kelsey, the former National Director for NHS Patients and Information, has been put in charge of making the $1 billion My Health Record digital system work. Picture: Anthony Harvey / Getty Images for TechCrunchSource:Supplied

The former NHS executive is an interesting appointment as CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency because he was in charge of the UK digital health records scheme Care.data dumped by the UK’s National Health System in July.

The Department of Health stated that Mr Kelsey is uniquely suited to the role because of his experience with data and digital platforms in health and personal privacy.

The Care.data scheme to store patients’ medical information in a single database suffered multiple delays and was then scrapped after major problems emerged over patient confidentiality.

It was similar to Australia’s My Health Record that Mr Kelsey will now oversee.

Concerns emerged in the UK because people were not aware they had to opt out to protect their privacy and there were fears the information could be sold to pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

Mr Kelsey was featured in a mock up “Downfall” Youtube video which lampooned him as Hitler in the final days unable to understand why his plans had failed.

Health Minister Sussan Ley is currently trialling an opt out system for Australia’s digital My Health Record.

From July 360,000 residents of Penrith in Sydney’s West and 700,000 people in North Queensland had their personal health information uploaded onto the internet.

Their records contained a summary of their health status put in by their doctor, records of their medicines and allergies and eventually links to x-ray and medical test results.

Patients in these areas had to notify the government by June if they did not wish their personal health information used in such a record.

The opt out system could soon apply to all Australians and may present concerns for patients who had abortions, mental illnesses or other embarrassing health problems they may want to keep secret.

Mr Kelsey set up Dr Foster, a company which pioneered publication of patient outcomes in healthcare. This company was later sold to Telstra which has now set up its own health division.

He previously worked for UK newspapers, the Independent and the Sunday Times, as well as Channel 4 and the BBC.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said as a director of the NHS, Mr Kelsey oversaw the safe and successful introduction of national digital services for patients in England — including, for the first time, access to their medical information when they wished it.

As chair of the National Information Board, he also oversaw the development of new standards to safeguard the confidentiality of personal data which have now been adopted as UK government policy.

“In fact, he stopped the development of a database of concern and put in place a new legal and policy framework to ensure that medical data was always handled safely in the NHS,” the spokeswoman said.

“Mr Kelsey has unique experience — and credentials — in successful direction of data and digital programs in healthcare and the protection of privacy. This is why he was appointed to be CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency.’

Four years after it was set up Australia’s high cost My Health Record introduced by the previous Labor Government is still barely used.

Just one in six or 4.138 million Australians have a My Health Record but only 290,000 of these records have shared health summaries attached.

At 4 September, 5,737 General Practice organisations are connected to the My Health Record

averaging around 12,000 shared health summary uploads per week since 31 July.

E-health experts have warned the eight-year-old policy that underpins the records is so outdated it was written before the cloud and tablet computers, the first iPhone was less than a year old, Twitter was not open to the public, neither Google Chrome or streaming existed and there were only 500 apps on the Apple App store in 2008.

News Corp Australia revealed earlier this year the Health Department was setting up My Health Records for people who have been dead for over two decades.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon said that he has not met Mr Kelsey but “sometimes senior bureaucrats in our country are paid more than premiers and the prime minister because jobs of that scale demands someone with the highest qualifications”.

Dr Gannon said he was aware of the failure of the UK scheme but was not across the details of what had gone wrong.

“I support anything that will steer this $1 billion project on course so taxpayers get something from it because it is the way of the future,” Dr Gannon said.

The current paper based record system was woefully inadequate, resulted in massive duplication of tests and the risk of medicine interactions, he said.

“We need to address the concerns, listen to GPs who say the information does not knit with their established IT platforms and iron out the problems,” he said.