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Defence to develop e-health systems

by Aleks Vickovich •
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Improving and upgrading health information systems has been a central finding of the ANAO’s review of health care delivery to Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel.

The audit report, entitled Defence's Management of Health Services to Australian Defence Force Personnel in Australia, was released to the public on Thursday 24 June and investigated the quality and efficiency of health care provision in the defence sector.

The review found that ICT could be better utilised to deliver health care to more than 55,000 ADF personnel.  The report identified the lack of a single patient records management system as a key concern.  It argued that Defence’s reliance on paper-based patient records is inefficient and does not reflect the flexibility needed in a sector where personnel are transferred and moved regularly. Furthermore, it highlighted the problem of incompatibility with other non-ADF health agencies and the inability of Defence to contribute to health data collation initiatives.

One of Defence’s existing e-Health systems, Health Key Solution or HealthKEYS, was described by the report as “out-dated and not suited to Defence’s preferred information architecture model”.  ADF personnel that were interviewed by the ANAO during its investigation referred to the system as ‘slow’ and ‘clunky’.  The other existing system, the Medical Information Management Index (MIMI), was similarly criticised as not being functional and having many limitations.

However the report also acknowledged that a new Defence e-Health system is currently in production, possibly in response to the ANAO’s original findings.  The Joint e-Health Data and Information (JeHDI) system intends to solve many of the problems identified by the ANAO report.  According to the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health the JeHDI system will improve the productivity of health care personnel and will allow Defence to become consistent with the National e-Health Strategy.  It is intended to not only allow Defence to record and track health care operations but also to bring a level of financial transparency previously lacking from the department’s health care provision.

The Defence Department has begun the tendering process for service providers, issuing a Request for Tender in February 2010 to design, build and implement the new e-health system.  The successful tenderer is expected to be announced in July and the system will be piloted thereafter.  The total cost of the development is estimated at $25 million.

The ANAO has welcomed the decision to improve Defence e-Health systems but has also recommended that Defence employ an independent assurer to oversee the implementation process and conduct regular independent reviews.

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