NEHTA admits to errors in e-health identifiers

Concession follows concerns from the MSIA around the accuracy of the identifier service

The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) has conceded there have been errors in its Individual Healthcare Identifiers (IHI) service, following claims by industry that the service is flawed.

In a senate hearing into the <i> Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) Bill 2011</i>, NEHTA chief executive, Peter Fleming, admitted there were occasional instances which produced duplicate identifiers.

“Very occasionally, there is the instance of having two numbers,” Fleming said. “Medicare has a process for identifying that, rectifying it with the individual involved and I stress that is only caused by an occasional manual error.

“There is a small possibility that something may be keyed in incorrectly. But Medicare, the IHI system operator, have very advanced processes to identify that, and rectify it.”

The comments follow points raised by MSIA treasurer, Dr Vince McCauley, who raised concerns around the accuracy of the IHI due to the instance in which they can change under certain circumstances, and the further affects it will then have on the PCEHR.

“A patient’s identifier can in fact change under a number of defiant circumstances and when that change happens there is no mechanism for Medicare notifying practices or practitioners of that change in identifier,” McCauley said.

“Consequently, it becomes impossible to validate that identifier electronically against the service and so both the new identifier and the old identifier will fail validation. It means any PCEHR record that is based on that IHI as a key to the patient record will no longer be usable and hence any information within the PCEHR will effectively disappear.”

McCauley pointed out that Medicare is not blame for any of the errors in the IHI, as NEHTA is responsible for dealing with the standards and specifications.

MSIA president, Jon Hughes, also said NEHTA had refused to supply access to its safety assessments, despite repeated requests. When questioned by the committee on the issue, NeHTA head of architecture, David Bunker, responded saying “safety is embedded into everything we do”.

Bunker said the authority works closely with clinicians across the medical community, and uses a balance of perspectives when working in teams.

Bunker also explained the process followed when dealing with standards and specifications. “Following on from that, as you’d expect with the number of standards and specifications we’re dealing with, there is a huge amount of paperwork generated.

“The clinical process firstly analyses what components of those are appropriate for a clinical process and what are purely technical, they then go through and check before we process through each of our stages.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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