Services Australia rebuilds immunisation register with IBM in wake of COVID

IBM Hybrid Cloud has been selected to prepare the Australian Immunisation Register ahead of COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

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Services Australia has turned to IBM for help in delivering Australia's vaccination program. The vendor started by scaling the capabilities of the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).

Among the additions to AIR's capabilities, the pair said, is the ability to track the COVID-19 vaccine to person, batch, and vial level. The existing platform, which in the past was primarily used for children's health, only recorded what vaccination was received person to person, and when.

Services Australia said the platform needed to be able to scale quickly so it could account for the expected pace of the vaccine rollout and carefully monitor the status of the program. It added that any scaling needed to take into consideration any new legislative requirements and allow for individuals to access their records.  

"Change was needed to capture not only which vaccine was given to each person, but to track every dose, the details of the vial, and batch numbers," the agency said. "Previously, AIR has only seen about two million encounters each year. With COVID-19 and mandatory flu reporting, this number is due to increase significantly with approximately 50 million COVID-19 vaccinations and 15 million flu vaccinations anticipated."

According to Services Australia, the biggest challenge was selecting channels, and ensuring that these were able to scale to meet the large volume of data it was preparing to monitor.

It chose IBM Hybrid Cloud.

See also: IBM banks on strong history for success with AU$1b government contract

"IBM's Hybrid Cloud was chosen to build a containerised solution, allowing for elasticity and dynamic scaling with requirements expected to shift significantly as reporting mandates change, and flu season and COVID-19 demands increase and fluctuate," the pair said.

Additionally, five different enablements for healthcare providers have been provided to allow for connection through APIs to record vaccination details.

"Services Australia adopted a war room approach to allow understanding of context and monitor across all channels and scenarios. This was critical to strategy, as well as diligent testing, and resulted in the solution's containers being placed in a hybrid cloud platform built on OpenStack and OpenShift," the pair continued.

IBM said Services Australia is planning to continue its "journey to cloud", with plans to incorporate public and private cloud systems into their offering.

In February, now-Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business Stuart Robert revealed the upcoming availability of a vaccination passport, a digital record confirming people have received the jab through the AIR.

"They will have a record, they will have a digital and paper certificate. For some 89% of Australians that have a smartphone, they will be able to access that digital certificate in their smartphone, download it onto their phone as a permanent record," Robert said at the time.

Services Australia then announced "significant upgrades" in preparation for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

"Services Australia has been putting in the work to ensure government services are simple, respectful, transparent, and helpful -- so we have supercharged myGov and we have state-of-the art cybersecurity in place to protect the Australian Immunisation Register," the former government services minister said.

"Linking your myGov and Medicare digital accounts is a simple step you can take right now that will help you and your family be ready for a vaccinated Australia."

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