e-Health funding not enough: Victorian Department of Health

$446 million in funding not enough for e-health record trial

The Federal Government's $446 million commitment to e-health is “not enough” and could deliver a "prototype" to sell the benefits of technology and healthcare, according to the Victorian Department of Health.

In the recently released budget papers, the documents for the health portfolio stated the sum would be spent over the next two years to “establish key components of the personally controlled electronic health record system”.

“This secure online system will enable improved access to healthcare information, commencing in 2012/13.” the documents said.

However, the allocated funding is not enough for a national rollout, Department of Health secretary, Fran Thorn, said last week at the health informatics conference in Melbourne.

“I believe the $500 million (sic) the Department of Health and Ageing has allocated to the e-health record trial is not enough for a full rollout across Australia and I'm not going to try to pretend that it is,” Thorn said.

The comments were made in response to a question from an audience member who asked about the possibility that in the next two years there could be a roll out of technology systems to support decision-making for healthcare professionals.

This wouldn't be achieved, she said, but there was scope to achieve this in future as part of the work to establish the healthcare identifier service, to electronically link patients' health records.

“At the moment we're setting up the foundations, we don't have the money we believe should be invested in e-health yet but we haven't given up hope yet,” Ms Thorn said.

“The money that has been allocated to DOHA to further significant e-health record trial will, as part of that have, over time, a decision support system... They are not interchangeable but are very closely related.

“In the national e-health strategy it does go into the idea of the development of what you could begin to structure as the foundations, then to a range of applications on top of that which are around the obvious.”

She said that the $446 million in funding could produce a suitable “protoype”, which could be used to sell the benefits of e-health.

“If we use the funding well, which we are required to do so, and not fritter it away but be very targeted in our approach of building the prototype case for this, then I think it would be impossible for anyone to continue to ignore what, in the end... is actually a very good investment."

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