Vendors eye e-health records $450m project

IT vendors vying to participate in the development of a national electronic database of Australia's health records will begin bidding for government projects early next year.

Dubbed HealthConnect the Federal Government initiative has been stalled by privacy and security concerns, but a spokesman for the project confirmed bidding should start within 12 months.

Companies setting themselves up to dovetail into HealthConnect include Web-based clinical information system provider i-Health.

The company's director Brian Allen estimates the development of online health systems in Australia is worth more than $450 million .

"The introduction of electronic health records is creating plenty of opportunities; when determining the value of this market we are talking in telephone book numbers," Allen said.

Anticipating this growth, the company has formed an alliance with e-business integrator SeeBeyond, which claims a 60 per cent market share in the health industry, and Cap Gemini Ernest & Young to provide consulting services.

Des Powell, SeeBeyond Australia and New Zealand managing director, said Australian states had disparate healthcare systems at various stages of technological development and this alliance will allow them to build and retain a complete patient registry system.

Powell said the system can be developed to share patient information with all sections of the health industry without using a Medicare number as a 'single, national, patient identifier'.

However, the government is moving ahead with plans to use Medicare numbers as the system identifier despite strong opposition from the Australian Medical Association and fears on-selling of information to e-health companies may occur.

In response, the government has made HealthConnect an opt-in system where users must agree to participate in the network before information is used.

Federal Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge said the treatment of electronic patient records is a complex issue but will enable better management of clinical information to assist with care.

"At the end of this project we anticipate that health care facilities will be able to use health record software from different vendors to access the same data and be able to exchange elements of patient records with different health care facilities," he said.

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