HealthEngine to build Australia's COVID vaccination booking platform

The company, for a separate matter, was ordered by the Federal Court in August to pay AU$2.9 million in penalties, following allegations it had shared patient information and skewed its reviews.

HealthEngine has on Tuesday announced being selected by the federal government to build its COVID-19 vaccination booking platform.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Information and Booking Service will be launched by the Department of Health in the coming weeks to support the vaccination rollout.

HealthEngine said Health's "end-to-end COVID-19 vaccination solution" would allow patients to locate and book appointments with designated vaccine clinics via a service finder based on the HealthDirect-run National Health Services Directory (NHSD).  

The platform is touted by the Perth-based company as a standalone booking option that will help clinics get online quickly for COVID vaccinations, where they don't already have an online booking system.

The booking platform will be available to approved health service providers who are part of the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout including GP clinics, pharmacies, and state-run vaccination clinics.

It's being fast-tracked to meet challenging deadlines, HealthEngine said.   

"Given the very tight timeframes involved and the complexity of such a project, we are under no illusions about the challenge we have signed up to. However, the opportunity to support a historic public health effort involving millions of Australians by assisting the federal government with a very important piece of national digital health infrastructure, was one we simply couldn't pass up," HealthEngine CEO and founder Dr Marcus Tan said.

HealthEngine was in August ordered by the Federal Court to pay AU$2.9 million in penalties, following allegations it had shared patient information and skewed its reviews.

The Federal Court found the company engaged in misleading conduct in relation to the sharing of patient personal information with private health insurance brokers and publishing misleading patient reviews and ratings. 

The company admitted that between 30 April 2014 and 30 June 2018 it gave non-clinical personal information such as names, dates of birth, phone numbers, and email addresses of over 135,000 patients to third party private health insurance brokers without providing adequate disclosure to consumers.

Such arrangements with private health insurance brokers saw HealthEngine pocket over AU$1.8 million.

Facing the Select Committee on COVID-19 on Tuesday, Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Phil Gaetjens said despite the instances of people being given an overdose of the vaccine, cold chain problems, residents in aged care waiting for their inoculation, the states not fully understanding the Commonwealth's vaccine strategy, and the Defence Force stepping in, rollout of the vaccine to date has been "okay".

"I would put those issues in the category of noise and I think above that, there is a very strong signal that the vaccine is going out okay," he said.

"I think they are teething issues that can happen in any rollout of the logistical proportions that this one is."

According to Gaetjens, in the case of the overdosing, "no harm was done".

"In the whole scheme of things, issues like this will arise and I think the more that people go on about small issues like this, that affects confidence more than the actual impact of those small issues themselves," he continued.

Asked if he was happy with the vaccine rollout so far and if he was confident the government had control of the problems that have arisen, Gaetjens simply responded with, "Yes, I am".

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