Vendor support call for e-health standards

The first awareness program into standards development for the national Electronic Health Record (EHR) initiative has called for more vendor involvement into developing standards as part of the 2006 National e-Health Transition Authority (Nehta) projects.

The National E-Health Standards Development Management Framework outlined by the Department of Health earlier this year calls for the authority to include the release of a tested and certified health interoperability framework, guidelines for a national standard for authentication, and delivery of hospital discharge summaries and referrals on a trial basis.

Last week, Standards Australia and Nehta met in the first "awareness raising activity" as referenced in the management framework paper with a clear result being that the authority wants more input from vendors about its projects.

Dr Ian Reinecke, chief executive officer of Nehta, said this involvement will be "appreciated immensely".

"The Standards seminar held in conjunction with Standards Australia was extremely important in terms of vendor feedback and input," Reinecke said.

"This type of engagement is critical to the Nehta work program. The purpose was to engage industry and ascertain how vendors are able to be more involved in standards development."

Vendor working groups will contribute to a draft standards catalogue due to be published by the end of this year, the full contents of whichare yet to be decided. Additional clinical data specifications are soon to be published on the Nehta Web site but are waiting on the consensus procedure of Standards Australia.

According to Nehta, the funding appropriated to e-health initiatives under the 2006-07 Federal Budget is appropriate to meet priority work identified as creating a unique healthcare identification number for all individuals, and a unique identification number for each healthcare professional in Australia (more than 400,000).

Nehta and the HealthConnect projects largely missed out in the 2006-2007 Federal Budget, although $128 million committed to the project in the 2004-05 budget remains current until June 30, 2008.

Health Minister Tony Abbott has since confirmed $65 million in funding for standards projects specifically to be carried out by Nehta, with funds matched by the states for a total of $130 million as was announced in February by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

Reinecke said he believes the funding is appropriate for the priority work being developed.

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