Online medical booking platform HealthEngine will build the government’s COVID-19 vaccine booking service as part of the national vaccine rollout.
The booking service is expected to come online the coming weeks as HealthEngine puts together a system for patients to find and make an appointment with approved vaccine providers.
Dr Marcus Tan, co-founder and CEO of HealthEngine, said the company was “honoured” to build vaccine booking platform.
“Given the very tight timeframes involved and the complexity of such a project, we are under no illusions about the challenge we have signed up to,” Dr Tan said in a statement.
“However, the opportunity to support a historic public health effort involving millions of Australians by assisting the Federal government with a very important piece of national digital health infrastructure, was one we simply couldn’t pass up.”
Last year, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) fined HealthEngine $2.9 million for removing and altering customer reviews and sharing the non-clinical information of 135,000 patients with health insurers without their consent.
Formed in 2006, HealthEngine is a kind of search engine for various medical practitioners.
Clinics can sign up to be listed on the site for free, with the option of paying a monthly premium subscription to unlock higher search listings and promotions.
A Sydney Morning Herald investigation into the Western Australian company in 2017 found that more than half of the 'positive' review of medical practices left on HealthEngine had actually been tweaked to sound more positive than they originally were.
Vaccine providers such as pharmacies, general practice, and state-run vaccine clinics will be able to join the HealthEngine platform so patients can easily book their vaccine appointments online.
HealthEngine said its vaccine booking solution complies with government requirements for “accessibility, privacy and security”.
Justin Warren, a board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia, was skeptical about HealthEngine being approved to make the government's vaccine booking platform.
"I [don't know] about you, but a company that saw nothing wrong with editing patient reviews to change negative ones to positive ones until a media backlash isn't one I'm going to trust with any of my information, let alone health information," he said on Twitter.
I dunno about you, but a company that saw nothing wrong with editing patient reviews to change negative ones to positive ones until a media backlash isn't one I'm going to trust with any of my information, let alone health information.— Justin Warren ⬡ (@jpwarren) March 8, 2021
Australia’s national vaccine program got off to a slow start last month with only 33,000 out of a planned 63,000 doses being administered in the first week.
In total, around 86,500 vaccine doses have so far been administered, according to the ABC.
The government’s five-stage vaccination strategy will see frontline workers (such as those in quarantine hotels and health care) receive the vaccine first along with aged and disability care residents.
Elderly adults and younger adults with underlying health conditions, and emergency services personnel will be next, as the rollout gradually extends to people at lower risk to the serious consequences of COVID-19.