NACCHO Aboriginal health funding alert :Health Minister Peter Dutton to review troubled e-health

Peter Dutton

According to reports in The Australian  HEALTH Minister Peter Dutton has moved swiftly to initiate a review of the troubled $1 billion personally controlled e-health record system at the behest of Tony Abbott.

Mr Dutton has received initial briefings on the PCEHR from key stakeholders such as the Department of Health.

NACCHO has supported the introduction of a national eHealth record system. Through AMSANT our sector has directly experienced the benefits that have been gleaned from a shared electronic health record system (SEHR).

Our sector has been early adopters of eHealth initiatives for many years. More recent examples include: AMSANT and AHCSA integration with the NT Department of Health and Families eHealth site (wave 2) project, QAIHC adoption of the eCollaboratives project and the KAMSC regional linkage of Aboriginal Medical Services to hospitals in the Kimberley to name just a few examples.

As a result our sector has been in a  unique position to participate in the monitoring and evaluation of the PCEHR system as we have extensive knowledge and practice to draw from.

NACCHO and its affiliates are committed to the National eHealth agenda through the National ACCHS
eHealth Project (A new website will be released over the coming weeks)

The Coalition will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the true status of the PCEHR implementation as outlined in its health policy released in the lead up to the election. “In government, the Coalition implemented successful incentives to computerise general practice and will continue to provide strong in-principle support for a shared electronic health record for patients,” the policy says.

“The Coalition will again work with health professions and industry to prioritise implementation following a full assessment of the current situation.” A spokeswoman for Mr Dutton declined to say who was expected to lead the review or how long it would take.

“We all support an electronic health record,” she said. “However, we have grave concerns about the amount of money the previous government spent on e-health for very little outcome to date.

“At a cost of around $1bn, we should have a lot more to show for it.” In opposition, Mr Dutton and others criticised the PCEHR’s performance, saying that while more than 650,000 people had registered for an e-health record, only 4000-plus shared health summaries were created.

The summaries are generated by a patient’s GP and contain diagnoses, allergies and medications. The spokeswoman declined to say if Deloitte’s refresh of the 2008 national e-health strategy had begun. Medical Software Industry Association president Jenny O’Neill said her organisation was “very willing to assist the new Health Minister in a review and planning for a sustainable (e-health) future”.

“In a recent Q&A program on the ABC, former health minister Tanya Plibersek equated a $1.5bn investment by government as a ’rounding error’,”

Ms O’Neill said. “Had her department invested this ’rounding error’ in the e-health sector by strengthening the electronic bridges between all the parties, Australia would have achieved major and sustainable transformational change in this timeframe.

If all the important infrastructure supporting current data transfer had been strengthened and upgraded with the latest technologies, national security and safety standards would now exist.” She said the PCEHR was “a much advertised national system which is next to empty”. ”

Each transaction in this national system has to be routed through a national repository,” Ms O’Neill said. “It is like building a fast train system between the cities and towns of Australia and requiring every trip to go via Canberra.” She said taxpayers could not afford rounding errors in e-health.

The Consumers e-Health Alliance wants the government to establish a “truly independent” national e-health governing council that comprises medical experts, consumers, the local health IT industry and government agencies. Alliance convenor Peter Brown said the council would have oversight of a new entity tasked with implementation and operational responsibilities.

Last week the Pharmacy Guild told The Australian it would make a detailed submission to the e-health review centred on three areas: patient issues, pharmacy issues and system issues.

Pharmacy Guild national president Kos Sclavos said there had been “some significant mistakes and missed opportunities” with the PCEHR. Meanwhile, in an industry workshop prior to the election, Health chief information and knowledge officer Paul Madden said one area of improvement was communication.

“The advent of this forum probably lines up with a new era in consultation and communication with the IT industry across the whole health and ageing space,” Mr Madden told participants.

He said there wasn’t a single channel or co-ordinated approach to disseminate information on e-health but the department was determined to improve matters. “There is so much going on … so much overlapping … so much possibility for confusion, mis-messaging and I think we need to get better at communicating what’s happening next,” he said.

Mr Madden expects such industry workshops, where participants range from departmental officials to software providers, to occur three to four times a year. –

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NACCHO JOB Opportunities:

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NACCHO as the national authority in comprenhesive Aboriginal primary health care currently has a wide range of job oppportunities in the pipeline.

Register your current or future interest with our HR TEAM HERE

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