Telstra's cancer contract questioned
Concerns have been raised about Telstra’s ability to deliver a new $220 million Federal Government contract.
Telstra Health — the telco's health arm — has been awarded a lucrative $220 million five year contract to build and operate a National Cancer Screening Register.
The project is designed to modernise and nationalise cervical and bowel cancer screening.
At the moment, cervical cancer screening is run by eight separate state and territory-based registers, while the bowel cancer registry is run by a central body that relies mostly on postal reminders.
Telstra Health has purchased four different health businesses to work on the register.
“Telstra has been investing in a number of the most commonly used specialised health technologies in Australia, so what we bring is technology with tremendous health background and health experience,” Telstra Health Shane Solomon told reporters.
“I think with Telstra we're able to demonstrate that we could introduce a national program at scale because we are covering 11 million people who should be screened.
“The advantage of having it under one roof is first of all, having the data we can follow up people who haven't been screened.
“If a person moves from one state to another they can be lost to the system so our aim is to use the modern digital technologies of SMS, email, internet portals to make sure that we don't lose track of people at a time when they need to be screened.”
David Vaile, Executive Director of the University of New South Wales Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, has told the ABC that there are concerns about security.
“Those existing registries were pretty trustworthy — they may not get it right all the time but it's relatively straightforward they don't have a built-in conflict of interest,” Mr Vaile said.
“Telstra on the other hand is a strong proponent of big data, of open data they're obviously a commercial operation, they're often seeking to use personal information for uses beyond what it was originally collected for and to push the limits of privacy and data protection law.
“What are the rules for transferring information from one system to another, at what point does the patient know about it, can they audit it, can they have consent for some part but not for others — essentially do they have any choice or control over it?”
The concerns may be exacerbated by Telstra’s repeated network outages.
Telstra executives have spoken out about the mass ADSL and NBN internet outage that has plagued users throughout May.
Telstra has been forced to publicly apologise, offering a $25 credit to thousands of customers affected by repeated network outages.
Analysts say the outages will start to hurt the telco’s bottom line.