Due to misleading claims by vendors when it comes to software compliance, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) is seeking to establish its own software integration testing and accreditation facility to move ahead with the implementation of electronic health records in 2008.
In a review of Australia's e-health reforms since 2005, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has recommended an accreditation centre to be the main interface with the medical software industry.
The BCG claims the centre is necessary because: "For most healthcare providers, standards and specifications will need to be implemented via packaged software. While the vendors of such software often claim to be compliant with various standards (including some that NEHTA has endorsed such as HL7) this is rarely the case. For example, all three major pathology messaging hubs in Australia currently claim to be HL7 compliant, yet they are still not interoperable."
The review states an authoritative testing capability is necessary to ensure applications can interoperate on shared eHealth activities, at least for the first few years.
Moreover, a number of states have already stipulated "NEHTA compliance" in recently signed contracts making the creation of this centre an urgent priority.
According to the report: "In order to enage with software vendors and to enable standards we recommend NEHTA set up an authoritative software testing and accreditation capability. E-health implementation will be delayed if this is not available to test solutions on behalf of jurisdictions that want to implement them."
The BCG review warns projects will be delayed until an accreditation capability exists. Other options didn't fulfill the necessary critieria. For example, Standards Australia does not have full time staffing or technical infrastructure to run such an operation.
The goal is to have the centre fully operational by 2009 with up to 15 staff that have practical system integration experience, according to the review's recommendation.
"Ideally, they would be pragmatic realists, rather than obsessive perfectionists," the recommendation states.
"The assistance of an external systems integrator for the first few months of setting up this function would probably be worthwhile obtaining, but the medium term goal should be to have all skills inhouse."
One area where NEHTA has made significant progress is the development of a supply chain solution that features a single product catalogue.
Work is well underway on the supply chain catalogue, which features business intelligience functionality, with plans for it to be implemented by June, 2008.