Govt gets serious about e-health implementation

NETA green lights e-health revolution

The National E-Health Transaction Authority (NETA) will this year action its spate of electronic health projects, set to revolutionise the operations of Australian hospitals and clinics.

The authority is tasked with creating standards for healthcare across areas including electronic document management, pathology and patient identification and privacy. It is an independent government body which interacts with nine separate agencies, and state and federal government.

Speaking at the e-government CeBIT conference in Sydney today, NETA general manager Gill Carter said the agency has entered a phase of "serious implementation".

"Our work in personal e-health records is a five to 10 year transition from paper to electronic [media],"Carter said.

"The biggest benefit of e-health and [affiliate] projects is that people will have access and control over their own health information.

"We need to establish common standards, uphold privacy and work out what consumer access to health information should look like."

Common communication standards are top of the list for NETA, according to Carter, because they allow successful local projects to be deployed nationally.

The SNOMED CT project is the backbone of the Australian e-health industry, and will standardise communications between hospitals, pharmacies and government agencies for shared electronic health systems.

Other projects include digital patient referrals to provide doctors with comprehensive health records, platforms to deliver supply chain management of medical goods, and discharge summaries to allow general practitioners to monitor at-home treatment.

NETA is also working on national e-health initiatives such as standardising clinical terminology under a national library service, messaging security based on Public Key Infrastructure and establishing unique identities for every person in Australia using biometrics.

Carter said privacy is NETA's biggest challenge because laws differ between states.

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