New standards aid e-health timeframe

The National E-Health Transition Authority is diving deeper into the first building block for e-health interoperability this year, developing the SNOMED (Systematized nomenclature of medicine) messaging standard, which was chosen in the latter half of 2005.

Selection of the messaging standard has made the introduction of a working electronic health record system in the next 12 months a reality.

Dr Ian Reinecke, chair of the National e-health Transition Authority (NEHTA), said establishing common clinical terminology is only one of a number of building blocks essential for a shared electronic health records system.

Reneicke said NEHTA's work in other areas, such as creating individual and healthcare provider identifiers, standards and specifications for clinical information and securing messaging and user authentication, will also contribute significantly towards putting other building blocks in place.

"The decision [to use SNOMED] means that those developing and purchasing health software products can be confident that, if the product contains SNOMED as its clinical terminology, it will be consistent with the clinical terminology used in any future shared electronic health records," Reinecke said.

"It also means that the software developer doesn't have to spend time and effort developing or updating their own clinical terminology, as SNOMED's standards development organization will take on that task.

"SNOMED is, in its current form, appropriate for use in Australia. What NEHTA is doing, however, will make sure that it better meets the needs of the healthcare environment. This is something that each country which adopts SNOMED will do, and NEHTA is confident that we have the capability to do the job well."

The electronic healthcare identifier (EHI) system is expected to be up and running by the end of 2007 as well as the healthcare provider identifier. Both will be in place by mid-2008. According to NEHTA, this is a realistic timeframe for the basis of a working e-health system. Reinecke said although the timeframes are tight, he believes the goals are achievable.

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