The ADHA is simplifying its clinical terminology database with AWS

The National Clinical Terminology Service has been re-engineered to reduce complexities and costs.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) is currently in the final phase of testing before going live with version 2.0 of the National Clinical Terminology Service (NCTS).

The NCTS, which is operated by the ADHA and was built together with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), is a cloud-based software service that provides healthcare professionals access to an up-to-date one-stop shop national standardised terminology database.

While the original NCTS was built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), ADHA director Dion McMurtrie said it was built as a traditional microservices-based infrastructure-as-a-service application, which presents several complexities.

"The current system may not look it but it's quite complicated from an operation use. There are a number of different services that are operating and are configured and glued together." he said, presenting at the AWS Public Sector Summit on Tuesday.

As a result, the ADHA has developed NCTS 2.0 to be more simplified by taking a serverless approach to the system to take advantage of the AWS shared responsibility model.

Read more: Serverless computing: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

McMurtrie said this decision ultimately would help reduce hosting and operating costs, particularly those associated with the manual work involved with building and patching different security software versions.

During testing, NCTS 2.0 delivered approximately a 90% reduction in hosting costs, McMurtrie said.

He added that carrying out penetration testing and assessments would now be much easier.

The delivery of NCTS 2.0 forms part of the ADHA's wider responsibility to ensure the nation's health system is technologically up to date.

In March, the agency said it was on the hunt for providers to deliver a secure messaging facility for clinicians to use as part of its drive to eliminate paper-based messaging in healthcare.

In an expression of interest (EOI) document, the ADHA said that while parts of the Australian healthcare sector have adopted messaging services that are more advanced than the fax machine, they have generally been confined to those operating under the same service.

"This lack of interoperability has inhibited the uptake of secure messaging across the sector," it wrote.

More recently, the ADHA announced it had partnered with Australian software organisations to design software for specialists that would integrate with its nationwide My Health Record online medical file.

See also: Almost 300,000 Australians cancelled their My Health Record by mid-November

The ADHA received nine designs from as many software vendors that it said could "seamlessly and securely" integrate the My Health Record into the current systems used by specialists, such as cardiologists or anaesthetists. The ADHA is investing a total of AU$360,000 -- AU$40,000 per design -- on the project.   

The agency said that in addition to funding, it would provide "design expertise" by working with each vendor's design teams to co-produce improvements in design with their users.  

The ADHA also recently requested for feedback on how it could improve communication between healthcare professionals and their patients via secure digital channels.

Addressing the National Press Club in May last year, ADHA chief executive Tim Kelsey said the 2019 goal for his agency was for every registered clinician to be provided with a secure means of communicating digitally with their colleagues without "resorting to paper or the dreaded fax machine".

Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to AWS Public Sector Summit in Canberra as a guest of Amazon Web Services.

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