IBM to secure e-health records

$23.6 million contract with NEHTA encompasses project delivery of secure messaging platform

IBM Australia has been awarded another major Australian e-health tender, picking up responsibilities for delivering a secure messaging platform that will be used in the Federal Government’s $467 million personally controlled electronic health records (PCEHR) initiative.

The $23.6 million contract, to last until 30 June 2012, was awarded by the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), the lead e-health agency for the Council of Australian Governments, this week following an extensive tender first launched in September last year. The National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) is expected to provide verified security credentials to some 600,000 healthcare professionals in Australia as a precursor to sharing and upload information to patients who opt in to use the electronic health record, to be launched in July next year.

In a statement, IBM said it would provide infrastructure, consultation and required management to deliver the system, which will be delivered as a software development kit by NEHTA at a later date to e-health vendors for inclusion in clinical software.

“Our agreement with IBM enables NEHTA to build a system that will give healthcare professionals timely and secure access to appropriate patient information,” NEHTA chief executive, Peter Fleming, said. “In turn, the NASH program will take us one step closer to broader healthcare access for all Australians.”

According to initial tender documents, NEHTA would continue to lead development of the secure messaging platform, which it had been working on since early 2008. The system will be based on public key infrastructure, secure tokens and multi-factor authentication of professionals. It would also be compliant with current smartcard standards mandated by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).

”The NASH will be designed in consultation with both clinicians and consumers to ensure that it meets the needs of the Australian health care system and its patients,” health minister, Nicola Roxon, said in a statement.

The NASH has been a long time coming for the healthcare community, with many vendors and individual clinical communities developing and implementing their own messaging platform to provide similar functionality. The Melbourne East GP Network, one of the first wave sites awarded a portion of $12.5 million in federal funding for trialing of the PCEHR, has already deployed its own messaging platform among GPs.

The contract comes as yet another win for IBM Australia, which shortly before Christmas signed a $109 million agreement to extend its 15-year relationship with the Department of Health and Ageing by a further four years, without the government going to tender. The deal has undergone recent scrutiny, with belief the department has since called for an urgent review of the relationship.

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More about: Department of Health, etwork, Federal Government, IBM, IBM Australia
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