Don’t confuse ‘MySchool’ for healthcare as innovation through open data

Professor Braithwaite says he doesn’t oppose the system outright but he says the Government needs to give a much better explanation of how it would operate.

JEFFREY BRAITHWAITE: Is the data really reflecting performance of hospitals and services or is it a reflection of the different idiosyncrasies within the system and the complications within the system?

So it really does require a lot of smart thinking to present data in an effective way.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Do you suspect that when all is said and done a system of this nature simply might not be worth the money?

JEFFREY BRAITHWAITE: Well that’s the big $64 question. No-one really knows.

You set up an authority, you hire staff, you have a lot of activity within the health system to gather data in accordance with the information system’s requirements. You get a lot of people not only gathering the data but using it.

Do you get commensurate benefits in terms of health systems improvement? No-one really knows.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by the MySchool effort and I wasn’t impressed by the MyHosptials site when I heard about it late last year. However, lets not get confused about actionable and useful open data with publishing meaningless facts and figures, that are only likely to distort management priorities. I’m still waiting for a genuine Government 2.0 approach and innovative thinking in the public sector to be applied to this particular problem. And its not like there aren’t models they can copy. I wonder what’s stopping them?

There is no master switch for Gov 2.0

It’s a small investment, maybe $2 million or $3 million to help provide oversight of $80 billion,” he said. “I’d expect in the mid-term that some of those oversight responsibilities will go away and a lack of accountability at the program level may ensue.

So, you’ve heard that the US government is likely to be shutting down its flagship Gov 2.0 initiatives, like data.gov?

On Twitter, Australian federal government insider Mia Garlick pondered if this news means that Gov 2.0 is just another passing fad.

Personally, I think this has more to do with the reality of politics, the GFC aftershock and short-sighted public administration practices that have roots in 20th century management thinking. But unless the Internet itself goes dark, Gov 2.0 is here to stay. Even here in Australian, I’m seeing many signs of it becoming part of business as usual. And there is a whole social innovation sector outside government that is only just finding its own momentum.

BTW For more on this, see Alex Howard’s post on GovFresh (hat tip to Dominic Campbell).

MyHospitals (again) – is health care a journey or a transaction?

We are not providing real time information on how many parking lots are available or the current length of elective surgery waiting lists. For such information, they should contact the hospital or their doctor respectively,

I commented on MyHospitals the other day, but only just came across this related coverage.

My immediate thought in response to this quote from Alison Verhoeven, Senior Executive at Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), is: but why not?

Don’t factors like access to parking also affect the patient and the patient’s carers, friends and family as they move through the health system? It leaves me wondering exactly who the ‘My’ in MyHospitals is.

MyHospitals

Better hospital information for Australians

Nationally consistent, locally relevant

MyHospitals presents data on individual public hospitals throughout Australia. It has been set up under the National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement. It also includes information on many private hospitals.

MyHospitals is based on the latest available information provided by state and territory health departments and private hospitals to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Over time, the contents of the website will be expanded to add further information.

I’m never one to criticise any movement in the right direction, but lets face it – the MyHospitals site is just a fancy online brochure. Instead of flicking the pages, you can search directly for the hospital you are interested in.

The site’s copyright and terms of use are also very restrictive (alas, no hint of Creative Commons).

There is no data API, no news feeds to keep you updated, no social sharing options. Even the opportunity to include a map of the exact location of the hospital was overlooked.

And finally, statistics is one thing, but where are the stories [PDF] behind this data?

In that respect, I also wonder if issues of data quality might be improved if the AIHW applied some Gov 2.0 principles to the site and the process behind it. What do you think?

Chromaroma – the gameification of public sector information

Pick up Items.
Complete Collections.
Take on Missions.

The city is vast, and there are many ways
to play it. From ambient play which enhances
the journeys you already take, to more
exploratory fare that will take you to places
perhaps you didn’t know existed.

Gov 2.0 app building competitions that build on transport system time table data are one thing, but how about an online social game that uses your journeys as the currency?

Well, this is this idea behind Chromaroma. It utilises the data collected by users as they move through London’s public transport using their smart card travel passes.

For more of an overview see this Guardian piece or listen to this episode of their Tech Weekly podcast.

Chromaroma’s creator, Toby Barnes, also make some good points about gameification and how there is more to it than simply “points and badges”.

As a side note, I wonder if we’ll ever have the guts or initiative to try something like this here in Australia?

Better Health IT can save lives, but can we actually build these better IT systems?

AN estimated 5000 deaths, two million GP and outpatient visits and 310,000 hospital admissions could be prevented every year if an effective IT system were rolled out – saving up to $7.6 billion in health costs annually, according to an analysis for release today.

I’m always a little cynical about this kind of number of crunching. I’m all for saving lives, but remain unconvinced that we can actually build the better IT systems they call for – the health industry doesn’t have a great track record here after all.

However, listening to a news report on the radio today about a community protesting about the reduction of services at their rural hospital here in NSW today, I couldn’t help thinking that we don’t just need better technology, but better ways of managing complex systems like the public health system. We need global systems that allow local solutions, not one big homogeneous business process engine for health care.

This is because not everything in health (and other community service areas too) can be boiled down to a transaction, like medication or lab tests. Even if we can achieve it, improving health transactions with IT will only take us so far in improving patient outcomes (and ultimately saving tax payers money).

Web accessibility vs information accessibility for Government 2.0

I find the issue of Web site accessibility – particularly as part of the Gov 2.0 conversation – an interesting one. Personally I tend to look at it from the broader perspective of digital inclusion/exclusion, rather than just the mechanics of making the HTML mark up of a Web site accessible as such. WCAG 2.0 for example looks at both the mark up and the content, which makes a lot of sense in theory.

Lets now look at ‘accessibility’ in practice:

Now I know I’m probably going to lose a lot of karma points for mentioning this, but I couldn’t help noticing a few things on the Vision Australia site.

For a start, this rather odd breadcrumb trail I came across at one point:
Pastedgraphic

This was just one a number of navigational inconsistencies I came across. I also had a lot of trouble finding their RSS feed, until I stumbled back on to the home page (its not on the news pages itself and there is no auto-discovery).


And don’t get me started on the lack of human friendly URLs… like http://www.visionaustralia.org/info.aspx?page=823&news=1578

Now, there is no doubt that their WCMS is probably at fault for some of these problems, but isn’t it shame that such a leading example of an accessible site falls down in other areas that affect the overall user experience and the ability to access the information in it?

RSS is a particular bug bear with me as it is constantly forgotten by government organisations at all levels, but it is the corner stone of making new information easily syndicated out beyond the confines of a particular Website. I mention this because if government agencies see this as a model example, then I think they will still fail in their overall ability to deliver Government 2.0. Yes, Web accessibility itself is important – but so is information accessibility too if we are going to progress along the path of achieving full inclusion and participation. 

I think that when we talk about accessibility for Government 2.0, we should be aiming for:
  • Highest possible standards of Web accessibility (mark up and content);
  • Best possible user experience; and
  • Baked in support for content syndication and access to the PSI the site contains.
BTW As someone without vision problems (other than being a little short sighted) I do appreciate the fact that overall I have the advantage across the Web and it is very easy for me to be critical. However, the whole reason I was on the Vision Australia site was to check out the kinds of courses they run on Web accessibility. So, help me get some karma points back now by checking out their training courses and maybe even signing up for one. 🙂