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‘Moving forward’ on e-health

by Aleks Vickovich •
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The Federal Government has taken the first step to making e-health a reality with three sites named as pilots for the use of electronic health records.

In a statement issued on Tuesday 17 August, Health Minister Nicola Roxon announced that the three sites– GP Partners (Brisbane, QLD), GP Access (Hunter Valley, NSW) and Melbourne East GP Network (Victoria) – will be supported by a two-year investment of $12.5 million.  A further $1.2 million has been pledged by the NSW and QLD Governments (in-kind) for their respective pilot programs.

Ms Roxon said improve patient care and the efficiency and safety health system more broadly.

“This is an important step forward in allowing online access to health records for each Australian that chooses to.

“These sites will help lead the way in developing and informing future planning of the system, improving technology and identifying what works well and what could work better,” she said.

The statement also said that the “e-health system will benefit from the roll out of the National Broadband Network” (NBN), but did not elaborate further on this point.

As well as e- health records, these sites will be piloting health care identifiers and the electronic transmission of discharge summaries and referrals using national specifications.

The announcement follows a $392.3 million investment in tele-health initiatives for rural, remote and outer metropolitan communities, which was a centrepiece of Labor’s election campaign launch on Monday 16 August.

The e-health pilot is also notably ahead of schedule.  In July of this year, Ms Roxon outlined a timeline for major health reform projects in which she anticipated the launch of electronic health records would not be until July 2012.

The Federal Government has previously flagged e-health as a major reform priority, with a $466.7 million allocation awarded in the 2010-11 Federal Budget.

The e-health strategy was announced as apart of the wider National Health and Hospital Network (NHHN) reforms in May this year.

The e-health strategy is aimed at four key areas:

  • Implementing the national ‘health information highway’ infrastructure to allow information to be seamlessly accessed;
  • Stimulating investment in high priority computer systems and tools;
  • Encouraging health sector participants to adopt and use high priority systems and tools; and
  • Establishing e-health governance regime to enable coordination of national e-health activities.
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