Top ten most influential of 2010: E-health

Was 2010 the year of e-health?

Each Friday until the end of the year, Computerworld Australia is revealing one of the top ten most influential people, technologies and trends that shaped 2010 in Australia.

The top ten was collated and determined by our editorial team and advisory panel of IT managers, industry experts, consultants and analysts. The list so far:

(See how we chose the top ten)

A Readers’ Choice poll is also open to determine what our readers think should be included, and what shouldn’t.

Coming in at number four for Computerworld Australia's Top Ten Most Influential list for 2010: E-health.

E-health

Amidst the clamour of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and telecommunications reform in the halls of Australian Parliament, few technological issues have been given priority in 2010 as e-health.

A bit like ‘the Cloud’, the meaning and placement of e-health differs depending on who you talk to. For some, it’s the ability to simply identify someone with a unique number; others demand fully fledged health records. Then there’s the whole kit and kaboodle - electronical tags monitoring the entire process from the patient’s entry to the hospital, to the bed to the small vials of medication administered. As robotic as it sounds, for all intents and purposes advocates hope e-health will streamline the health system and cut down on waste and, more importantly, errors.

For all the talk in 2010 among doctors, corporations, industry professionals and government, much of the talk surrounding e-health has been conjecture. In Australia, at least, e-health is progressing in small steps rather than leaps and bounds. The education around cultural change and awareness that must go on - as well as the debates around privacy and other implications - are an immense forewarning of just how large an undertaking e-health really is.

Yet in Australia, 2010 became in some ways the year of e-health’s awakening.

The Department of Health and Ageing, Medicare Australia and e-health lead agency the National E-health Transition Authority (NEHTA) claimed success in the first implementation of unique health identifiers for 98 per cent of Australians - some 23 million numbers - as well as identifiying numbers for health providers and doctors.

The next step - voluntary, personally controlled health records - are also on their way. The Federal Government has so far pledged $67.5 million in two stages for the project, as part of a $466.7 million funding round announced in the Federal Budget to have the records up and running by the middle of 2012.

As part of an commitment made during this year’s Federal election, the Labor party also committed a further $400 million promoting the use of telehealth for regional and rural communities.

For all the success that the Gillard Government’s proposed e-health program has had, however, there is no shortage of debates over privacy, lack of standards and even a base aversion to change from the doctors and health providers who will ultimately operate the e-health programs.

Where some have demanded urgent implementation of e-health programs, others have pushed for much greater debate on the type of e-health programs to be implemented. Continuing battles between the vendors developing e-health systems and NEHTA have failed to help, to say the least.

Ultimately, the vasts amounts of money being spent by both public and private hands on e-health experimentation and implementation have led the future of electronic systems down a precarious path, claiming the finances and jobs of some of the industry’s traditional stalwarts. Most would admit that e-health is, in some, way, shape or form, an inevitability. But the when, how, and how long of it is yet to be decided.

Disagree with the placement of e-health in the top ten most influential of 2010? Give us your thoughts.

Related articles about e-health

Only three software vendors sign up to e-health identifier tests

iSOFT records $383 million statutory loss

E-health to be held back by doctors

E-health urgency required to overhaul industry

Western Australia Auditor-General slams WA Health failures

Government invests $400 million in telehealth, video conferencing services

DoHA grants $55 million to second health record trial sites

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