The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) will digitise more than 40 million patient records stored on old microfiche archive equipment between 1975 and 1984 before the government’s Medicare scheme was introduced.
In a tender issued on today, the DoHA said was looking for a supplier to convert images from microfiche to a digital image format, optimise the images for an optical character recognition (OCR) process, and convert them to PDFs with text and manual searching.
This historical data – which includes almost 1 million pages of Medibank and private health insurance records – is held on computer output microfiche or COM fiche cards, many of which have “degraded and marked with scratches due to wear and tear,” the DoHA said.
The DoHA said historical data on microfiche is still in use and needs to be preserved and its usability improved by providing a more efficient method to search the database. Using microfiche readers is time-consuming and imposes further wear and tear on the system, the DoHA said.
Digitising these records also reduces the risk that the department would not be able to access these records when microfiche becomes obsolete. It also eliminates the risk of damage and deterioration of the microfiche media, “rendering the card unreadable due to wear the tear,” the department said.
“The successful tenderer will be required to organise the PDF files to facilitate both text and manual searching, e.g. through the use of bookmarks. The ability to search through only a defined part of a collection, e.g. only one [Australian] state, is desirable,” the DoHA said in its tender document.
The DoHA said the tenderer must securely transport fiche and digital files – which contain personal health information – between the tenderer’s premises and the department, and securely store and destroy the microfiche files.