Snapshot: The e-health landscape in Australia

How e-health is making its mark down under

This article accompanies 'NBN 101: How the NBN can change e-health'

Under its $7.8 billion national heathcare reform project, to be completed over a five year period, the Gillard Government has committed to improving hospitals and primary healthcare, providing more training for health professional including doctors and nurses, investment in prevention, increasing support for mental illness and aged care, and bringing the health system up to date.

As part of this health reform project, the government has established a Healthcare Identifier Bill 2010 to govern a timeline to have unique healthcare identifiers (HI) in operation within 10 years, a project spearheaded by Medicare. This will mean Australian has a unique health record held in a single national database that can be accessed by different healthcare professionals.

In the 2010-11 Federal Budget, $466.7 million was allocated to develop a Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) over a two year period and available for every Australian who opts to have one. The record, scheduled for delivery on 1 July 2012, is pegged to include a summary of the patient’s health information, secure access for patients and healthcare professionals, and “rigorous” governance to ensure the contents of the record remain private.

Since the project’s creation, the agency charged with overseeing the rollout of national e-health projects, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) moved to finalise two rounds of trial sites, the first in August 2010 followed by the second raft in March. The sites will lead the implementation of the PCEHR while targeting key healthcare areas and covering areas encompassing metropolitan, rural and regional communities.

The project has been the subject of much criticism from both consumer groups and the industry, which welcomed the recent 130-page draft concept of operations (PDF) detailing the project’s purpose.

Most recently, the Department of Health and Aging has finalised the first tranche of Medicare Locals to participate in the $416.8 million project. The 19 healthcare organisations, four of which in Victoria are yet to be announced, will facilitate in the early stage rollout of the e-health initiatives as well as providing a local response to services and integration across healthcare. The remainder of the participating organisations will be selected and announced in 2012.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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