AMA calls for $328m Victorian e-health initiative

Medical associations calls for HealthSMART to be replaced with iPads, improved medical interfaces

The Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for more than $18 million in funding over four years from the state government to roll out iPads and supporting infrastructure to doctors.

The grant comes as part of $328 million in funding the association has pushed from the Victorian Government across the 2011-2012 financial year and three-year forward estimates as a means of replacing the scrapped HealthSMART initiative and improving patietn safety through ICT infrastructure.

In a submission to the state treasurer (PDF) ahead of the budget due to be handed down in Parliament next week, the association called for all public hospital-based doctors to be provided a handheld device to be used for drug charts, medication management and patient records.

The association estimated such a program would likely cost $8 million worth of devices and supporting infrastructure in the first year, along with additional supporting costs amounting to $10 million over the following three years.

“Improved ICT will not solve all the problems in our health system, but these problems cannot be solved without improved ICT,” the association warned.

The iPad rollout, combined with a new medication management system and improved interface between GPs and hospitals, would serve in part to replace the former state government’s $360 million HealthSMART initiative, which ran over budget and over the initial four-year deadline.

Despite some aspects of the project being completed by primary contractor iSOFT, the initiative was ultimately shut down in February this year by the newly-elected Liberal government.

A complete overhaul of the state health system would require a robust medication management system to be implemented by the beginning of next year, with a replacement interface for GPs and hospitals to be in place by the middle of 2012, according to the association.

Supportive funding of $230 million would also be required to update “sub-standard” hardware and software systems within Victorian hospitals as a means of improving patient safety, the association report.

Though hospitals globally have embraced tablet devices as a way of making patient data more portable, at least two CIOs at Mater Health Services and Macquarie University Hospital have both held off on deploying the tablets, arguing the form factor is unsuited to creating patient data easily.

Broadband has also been highlighted as a key potential role for the state government in the upcoming budget, industry advocacy body the Australian Industry (Ai) Group using its own submission (PDF), to call for a review into the use of ICT and particularly broadband technologies by the public sector and small businesses.

The Victorian branch director for Ai Group, Tim Piper, wrote that measures would be needed to hold off potential competition in industry from the newly Liberal New South Wales Government.

“Whilst we cannot be caught in a competitive spiral, it is important that business is able to view the Victorian Government as being equally as proactive as is the new regime in New South Wales,” he wrote.

Key recommendations included a push for more education and skills development around broadband use by small businesses, as well as a focus on cyber security measures.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Tags fundingAustralian Medical Association (AMA)e-healthvictorian government

More about AMAAustralian Medical AssociationMacquarie UniversityMacquarie UniversityOFT

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