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SA Health sent bungled COVID alerts after "pausing" private provider

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Bungled SA Health COVID-19 test notifications were sent to the wrong recipients after a delivery platform with a private health technology firm was put on ice – with SA Pathology conceding the error lies instead with its in-house replacement system.

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A partnership with SA-based tech firm Personify Care was announced with much fanfare in April, at the height of SA’s coronavirus lockdown, with the Government declaring “South Australians will be able to access COVID-19 results sooner” as a results of its “new digital health service”.

“Developed in conjunction with SA technology company Personify Care, the new digital service is another example of SA Pathology embracing innovation,” Health Minister Stephen Wade said at the time.

SA Pathology is launching a new COVID-19 Digital Health Service to streamline the delivery of negative COVID-19 test…

Posted by SA Health on Sunday, April 19, 2020

However, Channel 7 reported at the weekend that several recipients had received COVID results in error, with an SA Health statement appearing to pin the blame on Personify Care.

“Personify Care remains engaged to deliver our digital service, however we’ve paused the use of the SMS delivery function while we review the best way to communicate the increased number of COVID-19 test results,” it said.

“In order to meet the increasing demand, SA Pathology has utilised a separate platform that allows us to deliver negative results.”

However, it is this alternative platform that has been responsible for the bungled text messages, with SA Health confirming to InDaily that the erroneous results had been sent via the in-house platform and not the Personify Care software.

“There was no relationship between Personify Care and the test delivery issues SA Pathology experienced earlier this month,” SA Pathology said in a statement.

The revelation raises further questions about why the original agreement was paused, with InDaily asking a series of questions about the status of the contract with Personify Care.

The company has been promoted on social media by Geoff Rohrsheim, a member of Premier Steven Marshall’s handpicked Economic Advisory Council.

Rohrsheim’s company Hatch Creations, of which he is a co-director, is listed as a shareholder in Personify Care, which is part of the Lot Fourteen-based Stone and Chalk start-up incubator hub frequently promoted by the Marshall Government.

SA Pathology said Personify Care was selected via a “direct appointment… within the state government procurement guidelines”.

It was selected “due to its track record in health and capacity to deliver its service within tight timeframes”, the statement said.

However, it’s understood the program was paused after waiting times for test results blew out to several days.

Opposition Health spokesman Chris Picton told InDaily: “We understand the reason [for the suspension] was because of lengthy delays in terms of giving people the results… people were waiting – while having to self-isolate – for up to a week, which is clearly unacceptable.”

However, he added, “we’ve heard from a source inside SA Pathology that there are concerns about the replacement of Personify Care”.

“The text messages being sent out now don’t have an independent step of verification, so if there’s an error in transcribing or data entering it can go to the wrong person – and there have been instances of this happening.

“That means people don’t get their test result and other people are getting test results by mistake.”

SA Pathology said an independent review was underway “to assess what processes [we] should implement to best communicate the increased number of COVID-19 test results in an efficient and timely way”.

“The [Personify Care] platform has proven to be a successful tool in many health care settings and its previous track record suggests it is capable of delivering a suitable service to meet our needs,” it said.

“SA Pathology continues to successfully deliver thousands of results a day.

“In the short-term, we have utilised an in-house platform that has restored the average delivery time for negative results to within 48 hours.”

The Opposition says the direct appointment of the company made it “especially important that there’s transparency as to how [Personify Care] got this contract”.

“How was this contract awarded? How much have taxpayers paid Personify?” Picton said.

“The Marshall Government must immediately disclose the contract, payments and tender arrangements with Personify Care.”

Rohrsheim told InDaily Personify Care was “a great, local, Lot Fourteen-based company that is being used interstate and overseas and now here in SA”.

“I’m not involved in the running of the business – it is but one of the Hatch Creations’ angel investments focused on emerging tech companies in SA.”

Personify Care CEO Ken Saman did not respond to inquiries today, but issued a statement in response to the Channel 7 report earlier this week insisting that “since our company was established some six years ago, we have not had a single privacy breach”.

“This is central to delivering on our promise of connecting patients to the best possible care,” he said.

“We will continue to work with SA Pathology and more broadly across SA Health as needed to deliver a world-class health service to the South Australian community.”

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