HIC calls for 20 million user ID management system

The Australian Health Insurance Commission (HIC), the government agency responsible for Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, is shopping for a whole-of-enterprise identity management solution to give 20 million consumers and health care providers access to secure electronic transactions.

Known as eCaps (Enabling Consumer and Provider Authentication Services) the project is slated for introduction in July 2005 with full transition and ongoing support to be completed by July 2008.

Computerworld requested information from both HIC and the Department of Health and Ageing the projected cost of eCaps, but both declined to comment citing commercial sensitivity. However, at a nominal cost of $50 per identity, the eCaps project could easily be worth $1 billion over the next four years.

According to the commission's request for proposal document, the first phase of eCaps will go out to around eight million users and will give HIC "the means to authenticate the identity of customers to maintain the confidence of the general public, protect privacy, prevent fraud and allow the efficient delivery of services to the right customer".

The system also aims to dramatically increase the range of technology options for electronic transactions available to consumers across Internet, virtual private network, interactive voice response, fax and SMS.

The documentation shows eCaps system needs to reliably cater for 100,000 concurrent users with sub-second response times for both authentication and authorization of users.

In terms of what sort of IT the commission thinks Australians will be using in 2008, it would appear HIC is not banking on any mass migration to either Longhorn or megabit broadband over the next three years.

"User systems will vary from antiquated and obsolete to state-of-the art. As a consequence of this, the requirements for running the front end of the eCaps product will need to enable access by the widest possible number of users. An example operating system that many users will still be operating is Windows 98, connecting to the Internet using a 56K dial-up modem," the HIC document states.

Australian Medical Association GP council chairman Rod Pearce said eCaps would improve security thus increasing consumer confidence.

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