The implementation of national e-health standards has taken another step forward with Northern Territory health agencies launching a secure messaging delivery system to share information between different clinical software systems.
Known as the Web Services Messaging Application (WSMA), the web service sends health information between different software using a first generation messaging specification, drafted by the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA).
The specification is a front-runner to a national specification for secure messaging delivery which is currently pending release. Earlier this month, NEHTA announced it had reached consensus in the development of an approach for the standard assessment of medical software.
The software, which was developed by NT-based Diverse Systems Consulting, is part of a joint initiative between NEHTA, General Practice Network NT and commercial software vendors Communicare Systems PEN Computer Systems.
The project is sponsored by the Northern Territory Department of Health and Families and is part of an ongoing e-health program aimed at improving clinical information exchange and service delivery, particularly for patients in remote areas.
WSMA will be used in most of the Territory’s Aboriginal community controlled health clinics, public hospitals and several urban general practices.
The WSMA application is designed to transfer thousands of electronic messages a day containing healthcare information to update the records of about 40,000 people who have already registered for the Northern Territory’s eHealthNT Shared Electronic Health Record service.
Compliance with NEHTA’s draft specification was undertaken via a self-assessment process. NEHTA expects future WSMA releases to undergo formal testing under a new national software conformance assessment scheme.
The next generation of WSMA is already in the works and the software will be commissioned once the final NEHTA specification is released. Planned upgrades include eReferrals and eDischarge Summaries and enabling clinical information exchange between Northern Territory healthcare providers and those in South Australia and Western Australia. The system has already been used to send test messages from SA Health systems to NT DHF systems.
In a separate announcement, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has released new guidelines to assist health practitioners make decisions about disclosing genetic information to their patient's genetic relatives.
The new guidelines follow an amendment to the Privacy Act regarding the disclosure of genetic information by health practitioners.
"These new guidelines permit doctors to disclose information to a genetic relative of the patient without the patient's consent, but only in situations where they reasonably believe that disclosure is necessary to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of the patient's relative," the chair of the NHMRC's guidelines working party, Dr Sandra Hacker AO, said in a statement.