MHR upgrade plans in chaos as ADHA expert exits

3 minute read

The key architect for the transformation of My Health Record has resigned suddenly from the digital health agency.

Mystery surrounds the sudden departure of Professor Mal Thatcher, the chief technology officer of the Australian Digital Health Agency, appointed just two years ago to modernise the My Health Record platform. 

Mr Thatcher was brought on board in January 2021 to lay the foundations of digital reforms that were the centrepiece of this year’s federal budget, including the Health API gateway and a new FHIR-based national repository platform. The MHR modernisation program received $429 million over two years in the budget, along with $325.7m over four years for ADHA, on top of its $80m annual operating cost. 

But the ADHA is tight-lipped on the reasons for Mr Thatcher’s departure, effective today, with one media outlet claiming it was due to illness, but nothing official to confirm the circumstances.  

Writing on LinkedIn, Professor Thatcher denied he was ill, describing himself as “match-ready and fighting fit”. 

“It has been a difficult decision to leave the Agency, however, I felt it was the right time for me to hand over the baton as the Agency moves into the next significant wave of national digital infrastructure modernisation,” he wrote. 

The news leaves Professor Thatcher’s technology services division in a cloud of confusion, with a restructure on the cards, along with one for the digital strategy division run by chief digital officer Peter O’Halloran. 

Nobody at the ADHA will confirm if Professor Thatcher was leaving due to personal reasons or as part of the mooted restructures. Nor have they commented on the details of and reasons for the restructures, or even how long Professor Thatcher’s role has been covered by chief information security officer John Borchi. 

One insider conceded to The Medical Republic that it was a “bad look”, with many sources confirming that Professor Thatcher had been the best person for the task of modernising the MHR. 

He was due to appear on an interoperability panel in the coming week with key other players in digital health in Australia, including Daniel McCabe, First Assistant Secretary for Medicare Benefits and Digital Health at the Department of Health and Aged Care. 

Professor Thatcher said he was “extraordinarily proud of what our team’s across the Agency and we have achieved in the 2.5 years since I joined”. 

“I can honestly say it has been extraordinarily humbling and satisfying. 

“And it has been a genuine privilege to work alongside such a talented group of committed professionals.  

“The Agency has copped its fair share of criticism over the years (including from me in previous roles), however the future of the My Health Record system and that of national digital health infrastructure is exciting and on a trajectory towards modern, standards-based, web services-based interoperability of health information across healthcare settings. 

“As for my future, I am excited about the possibilities ahead and believe destiny has already begun to write my next chapter.” 

Where that leaves the modernisation of the MHR is anyone’s guess as long as the ADHA remains silent. 

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