The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) has confirmed it has cancelled its $23.6 million contract with IBM to build the authentication service for the PCHER system.
IBM won the contract to build the National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) in March 2011. It promised to create a security and access management system to enable healthcare providers to securely access the PCEHR by June 26, 2012.
IBM failed to deliver its promised infrastructure for NASH by its deadline and an interim solution was deployed by the Department of Human Services (DHS). Secure tokens were issued in late August to those healthcare providers and organisations who had registered for an HPI-I and an HPI-O respectively and had applied for a certificate from Medicare Australia.
NEHTA CEO Peter Fleming told a Senate Estimates committee hearing in Canberra last week that the contract with IBM had been cancelled.
“[We] did terminate the contract with IBM,” Mr Fleming said. “We have been working with [the Department of Health and Ageing] and DHS. We have implemented a NASH solution with DHS, which is in operation and rolling out. That is progressing.”
A NEHTA spokesperson told Pulse+IT that both the NASH Design & Build and Operate contracts with IBM had been terminated.
"The parties have agreed and continue to undertake discussions on a confidential and without prejudice basis," the spokesperson said. "In accordance with that agreement, NEHTA is not in a position to make any further comment regarding the matter.
"There is an interim NASH developed and being operated now by the Department of Human Services for the PCEHR system. This situation with IBM does not affect consumer access to the eHealth record system in any way, and given the interim NASH solution has been delivered, this does not impact healthcare providers from accessing and uploading eHealth records."
The spokesperson said there is a second component of NASH which will support secure messaging and "an announcement on this is expected in the very near future".
In a statement to Pulse+IT, an IBM spokesperson said: "IBM has terminated its agreements with the National E-Health Transition Authority and E-Health Authentication Services Pty Ltd to design, build and operate Australia’s National Authentication Service for Health.
"IBM is unable to comment further as this is an ongoing legal matter."
Department of Health and Ageing secretary Jane Halton told Pulse+IT earlier this year that Medicare Australia did not have the technology capable of providing secure access when the contract was issued to IBM.
“It is fair to say that some of that technology has now been able to be deployed in ways that perhaps we didn't always understand it could be and certainly wasn't able to be some time ago,” Ms Halton said. “That's because of continuing work with Medicare Australia and their technology partners.
“So we have deployed interim NASH and contractual details between NEHTA and other parties are a matter for them and not for me.”
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