Mike Avatar

About me

I would describe myself as a curious person. I think curiosity is a key ingrediant to my success over 30+ years in the Pathology industry. There is an over-abundance of complexity in Pathology. If you look at what is classed as Pathology in Australia, even one discipline is at least as complex as any other business you can name. Banking? Well...try and make sense of Australian Medicare rules for billing. Airport loses you suitcase on a regular basis? For Pathology labs...any specimen loss can cause a different kind of a suit case, and worse, adverse patient outcomes. Training a Pathology Informatician takes a long time. If you begin as a laboratory scientist and have experience on the bench but have a technical bent, this is a great start to your career in Pathology Informatics. This is not to say you can't come from the other direction as a technical IT person, however that journey is a lot harder, as the domain can be difficult to understand without having worked in it. Much of the ability of Pathology labs to react to changes in regulatory requirements, new tests, billing and instrumentation requires someone who can talk to the IT folk about firewalls, network switches, integration, SQL, Business Intelligence, as well as having great troubleshooting skills. Pathology information systems are necessarily complex and often very flexible in configuration. This can be a burdon as well as a blessing. There is always a large technical debt associated with a lot of custom configuration and scripting. This complexity makes Pathology IT systems very difficult to replace. Witness the labs that have tried and either failed, or spent a fortune and a ridiculous amount of time doing it. Updating IT systems in Pathology is not for the faint hearted, so having experienced Pathology Informaticians on hand is a necessity. How do you become a Pathology Informatician? Have the right skill set and ask questions...the more curious you are, the more you learn and the more capable you will be coping with the complexity and hence the more successful and comfortable in the role.

Career highlights

Scientist at QML Pathology

After completing a B.App.Sci (Medical Laboratory Science) at QIT (now QUT) in 1987 , I began a job as a Relieving Scientist at QML Pathology in Brisbane Qld. While training in many disciplines at QML's West End laboratory, I completed my Grad. Dip. (Computer Science) at QUT. I spent 8 years as a country reliever at QML before settling down to work at QML's Springwood (Logan) laboratory in 1996.

Programmer/Lead Developer at QML Pathology

In 1999, a developer position became available at QML West End. I learnt off the best. My mentors were Kevin Walker (a self taught genius who designed and wrote most of the previous Concurrent based system in Assembly language and Fortran), Bruce Harper (a guru in the C language as well as being the in-house Unify database expert ) and John Herron (father of the PIT standard and HL7 standards expert/committee member). At QML, I built on my skills in Unix and Linux scripting and programming. Shell and Perl became my go-to languages to get stuff done. When Kevin was promoted to IT Operations Manager in 2003, I became the Development lead at QML. In the Information Systems Department (ISD) I was involved in lab system upgrades, system configuration of test panels, HL7, worklists, interfaces to analysers and data retrieval and reporting. I was also heavily involved in system integration with the other Primary Health Ltd sites using HL7 version 2 messaging.

Pathology Technical Lead at Mater Health Services

I began as a computer scientist learning the Kestral Pathology LIS (PLS) in February 2009. I was on a temporary 12 month contract as the Manager had gone on long service leave and didn't look to be coming back. At Mater I was involved less with the programming (although there are elements to it in PLS and HL7Connect) and more with system configuration. There was still a lot of HL7 integration work to do. I was made permanent full-time in 2010. We went through quite a few managers. I even spent about 12 months as manager of Pathology Information Systems although this was in addition to my team leader / technical role, which was unsustainable. In about 2014 the DIST (Digital Imaging Support Team) and Pathology Information systems team merged to become Diagnostic Solutions, which fit into the Health Solutions team. I basically lead the Pathology Support team from the technical aspect, looking after server support of PLS, HL7Connect, SQL Server, SSRS, SSIS, PowerBI, the pathology Intersystems Ensemble production, PKS Rippledown and a few other systems.

Senior Application Specialist - Mater Digital Technology and Information Division

Under new leadership, I have moved into a new team, responsible for Pathology Informations Systems, Diagnostics, Devices and Monitoring. 2021 has see me come full circle, with Mater Pathology implementing the Ultra LIS, which I spent 15 years or so using, and later, developing at QML. Ultra will be getting a new look Web interface and is deployed in Azure. Just goes to show, you get the fundamentals right and improve on the interface.

Digital Health Experience

  • Australian Passive Antimicrobial Awareness system working group AURA/OrgTrx (2015-present)
  • Australian Clinical Terminology User group Member (2011-present)
  • HL7 Australia O&O Working Group (2016-present)
  • Snomed International Observables Working group (2011-present)
  • Member IHTSDO Modelling Advisory Group (2015-2016)
  • PITUS16 member of working groups 1 and 3 (2015-2016)
  • Pathology Information, Terminology and Units Standardisation (PITUS) project member (2013-2014)
  • Member working party for Pathology Integration into PcEHR (2014)
  • Australian IHTSDO content committee rep (2011-2016), Standards Australia IT14-6-5 committee member (2001-2015)
  • RCPA Australian Pathology Units and Terminology Standardisation (PUTS) project member (2011-2012)
  • ACSQHC Working party on Cumulative Hospital Antibiograms (2012-2013)

Personal Interests

  • Reading
  • Live Music
  • Web Development
  • Lawn Bowls
  • Golf