The NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, has offered the state a sneak preview of tomorrow’s 2011-12 Budget, revealing a $170 million capital outlay for an e-Health project designed to improve medication safety.
“Electronic Medications Management is one of the most important components of our e-Health strategy and has the greatest potential to connect clinicians and pharmacists at all stages of the medication continuum,” said a spokesperson for the Minister.
“Transcription or dispensing errors can cause unnecessary pain, longer hospital stays and confusion particularly for our elderly and other vulnerable patients. Medications management solutions will help clinicians in improving the medications process,” she said.
The e-Health funding forms part of a $4.7 billion capital expenditure allocation for NSW Health, which Skinner claims to be a 50 per cent improvement on the previous Budget handed down under Labor.
The new capability will integrate into, or work alongside the electronic Medical Record (eMR) system already being progressively rolled out across the state’s public hospital system. The eMR logs details of the care given to each patient within the hospital system, and also provides resource scheduling functions to clinicians.
The eMR also features the maligned FirstNet system for emergency departments, which Skinner threatened to cut prior to the election, unless operational improvements could be made.
While the Health Minister has hinted towards a bigger-than-usual health budget to be tabled on Tuesday, the ICT industry will have to wait and see whether the tech component of the allocation can match the heights reached last year.
Intermedium’s 2010-11 edition of the Budget IT tool identified $594 million in ICT capital allocations from the Health Department’s budget papers, $86.5 million of which was earmarked for expenditure in that financial year.
An estimated $197.6 million of the 2010-11 total remains to be spent.
The Coalition Government has made serious attempts to boost its e-Health credentials, with the establishment of a new body within the portfolio, e-Health NSW, to follow a comprehensive restructure of the state’s health administration.
In a report into the existing structural arrangements, the Director-General of NSW Health, Mary Foley, listed the elevation of e-Health capability as one of the seven key objectives of the staffing reforms.
On 24 August, Skinner announced that 200 middle management roles and 100 head office positions would be cut from the department, and that it would be renamed the Ministry of Health to reflect the devolution of many of its powers to the Local Health Networks.
The creation of the new body aims to streamline a dispersed ICT governance framework, which the report described as a “half-way-house” in regards to the scatter of accountability across the Health Department. It will absorb all of the ICT functions of the shared services unit, Health Support Services (HSS) and the Area Health Service-based ICT functions.