[LINK] Governments change direction on health e-records

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Tue Oct 13 09:30:05 AEDT 2009

Governments change direction on health e-records
Karen Dearne
October 13, 2009
Australian IT

GOOGLE, Microsoft and other new providers will host Australians' 
electronic health records as the federal and state governments back away 
from funding a nationwide scheme.

National E-Health Transition Authority chief executive Peter Fleming 
said the original vision of a single e-health record system had been 
abandoned in favour of "person-controlled" records that could be adopted 
more quickly.

The Council of Australian Governments is yet to make a decision on the 
business case for individual e-health records put to it by NEHTA a year 
ago, but Mr Fleming said the health ministers were pushing the 
organisation to take "a far more commercial approach".

"Five years ago, there was a strong view that there would be an e-health 
record for all Australians held on a massive database somewhere," he 
told the Medical Software Industry Association conference in Sydney last 
week. "That's no longer the view.

"When and if the e-health record is approved, we'll enter into detailed 
planning around the architecture, but undoubtedly people will have an 
option to choose health records from a range of sources and their 
medical information will be stored in a number of locations."

Mr Fleming said the foundation work on healthcare identifiers, secure 
messaging and other technical standards would support a rollout of 
personal health records by 2012, although a new indexing service would 
be needed to bring disparate files together at the point of care.

To cater for emergency situations, a health summary containing key 
medication and allergy data could be linked to the index. "Certainly 
there needs to be a viable financial model for the private sector, in 
terms of margins or incentives, but I would see those things occurring," 
Mr Fleming said.

"One of our directions now is how we engage the private sector and move 
these things forward."

NEHTA has released to public discussion its strategic plan for the next 
three years to 2012.

Mr Fleming said Medicare would complete its construction of the Unique 
Healthcare Identifier service, which will assign and manage identity 
numbers for patients, medical providers and healthcare venues in December.

The system could not, however, be launched until new legislation 
amending the federal Privacy Act was passed by parliament, he said. 
Meanwhile, software vendors will have access to a model environment 
running dummy data for testing purposes. While the use of patient 
identifiers may be optional initially, Mr Fleming said, over time "we 
expect this to become ubiquitous".

Meanwhile, the Australian Privacy Foundation has slammed NEHTA for 
shutting consumers out of the e-health consultation process.

APF health spokeswoman Juanita Fernando said the strategic plan 
positioned consumers as "targets" for public marketing campaigns -- 
rather than as key participants in the development process -- despite 
NEHTA's "assertions" of inclusion.

"Why does the bulk of NEHTA's plan focus on stakeholders rather than 
consumers?" she said. "Why does NEHTA so tightly control feedback that 
ordinary consumers are not invited to attend various consultations?"


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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