Unnecessary costs slow healthcare exchange

Most ICT work in the local healthcare industry has been done in isolation meaning there's no clear, reliable, single identifier for individuals and providers in the system, says National E-health Transition Authority (NeHTA) CEO Ian Reinecke.

He attributed the problem to a lack of standardization, interoperability and understanding of workflow to effectively exchange information.

Moreover, Reinecke said, funding has been state-based without a national program to oversee the development of interoperability.

While there has been a strong focus on IT in health overseas, particularly the US and the UK, Australia has been a slow adopter of technology.

"There is the lack of a national electronic supply chain standard. Updating product information is slow and product recalls are slower than they need to be as well; there's also implications for inventory management in hospitals. Essentially there is a whole range of unnecessary costs at all stages of the process," Reinecke said.

He said NeHTA has just completed its first profile of what health information is currently available nationally, which was reported to a senior level committee this month.

"Originally we [NeHTA] received $20-odd million for the standards problems, but no funding for infrastructure until the Coalition of Australian Governments this year introduced funding for three pieces of infrastructure," Reinecke said. A new clinical terminology set is about to be introduced.

IT has a record of not performing, he said, coupled with a lack of confidence that is generating a great deal of frustration all round.

Last month, InterSystems launched the Ensemble Health Information Exchange, a platform for clinical information networks.

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