NEHTA to fund secure messaging interconnectivity
The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) will fund secure messaging vendors to work together to enable their products to connect with each other and between healthcare providers, with particular emphasis on the primary care sector.
In a statement, NEHTA announced that the Secure Message Delivery – Proof of Inter-connectivity and Deployment (SMD-POD) project “will provide financial assistance to secure messaging vendors to provide proof that standards-based secure messaging can be deployed in a scalable way”.
The project will also enable vendors to demonstrate that different conformant secure messaging products are capable of interconnecting within the Australian primary care sector and with other healthcare providers, including specialists, allied health providers and hospitals.
NEHTA will pay the vendors' costs of testing their products in a NATA-accredited lab if they successfully complete conformance tests to Standards Australia technical specifications for the Secure Message Delivery (SMD) standard, ATS 5822-2010, by January 31, 2013.
This is currently a requirement of the eHealth Practice Incentives Program (ePIP), due to come in in February next year.
Peter Young, executive general manager of DCA Health, which markets the Argus secure messaging service, said he welcomed initiatives to promote interconnectivity within the industry based on the SMD standard.
"We believe this will drive industry acceptance of secure electronic messaging as the natural means of communicating between healthcare providers," Mr Young said. "Collaboration within the industry is essential for this to occur."
To qualify, vendors must have an established Australian user base of more than 50 installations in general practices in two or more unconnected locations. They must also be capable of connecting to the Healthcare Identifiers (HI) Service to access a healthcare provider organisation’s end-point, and to be able to both send and receive referrals to and letters from specialists.
NEHTA will also provide funding of $15,000 to vendors who have completed the NATA testing and have successfully completed interconnectivity testing with at least two other conformant products. Three secure messaging vendors – DCA, HealthLink and Global Health – are currently testing their connectivity under the SMX project.
Geoffrey Sayer, head of operations for HealthLink, said SMX was well suited to deliver the objectives of the PIP program. "The three companies are naturally supportive of this process as we have already been working towards achieving these capabilities," Dr Sayer said.
"In addition, SMX will be providing greater reliability and sustainability for the benefits of our collective users. This is possible through practical day to day service and support requirements that move beyond PIP eligibility.”
Mathew Cherian, managing director of Global Health, which markets the ReferralNet system, said the addition of interconnectivity and two-way messaging as pre-requisites "is a huge positive for the sector".
"As general practitioners embrace two-way electronic messaging, vendors can focus on increasing coverage to the non-GP sector and expanding the range of documents that can be promptly and safely exchanged," Mr Cherian said. "Connectivity is such a key foundation to innovation and we believe this is the single most important enabler for eHealth momentum.”
Medical-Objects, which is not part of the SMX partnership but has a prior agreement with DCA to interoperate once standards are in place, will take part in the new SMD-POD project, its founder and managing director, Andrew McIntyre, said.
"Medical-Objects has always embraced standards and interoperability and achieved AHML HL7 certification over five years ago," Dr McIntyre said. "We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the standards compliance of our SMD messaging solution which has been engineered from the ground up with technical excellence and open interconnectivity in mind.
"The ability to freely interconnect is an important first step in allowing the free exchange of patient data in a secure, safe manner."
The project signals a more aggressive move by NEHTA and the government to fund interoperability between vendors. It follows a recent agreement between the two electronic prescription exchanges, eRx and MediSecure, to enable their products to interoperate.
Pulse+IT understands that the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) brokered the ePrescribing deal, although the department did not wish to comment and there is no word as yet whether that project will also be funded.
In its statement, NEHTA said the SMD POD project was not intended to reimburse the full costs of developing and implementing conformant solutions, but to offset a portion of the costs that vendors will incur by participating in the project.
Vendors are required to respond to the invitation to participate by November 30.
Posted in Australian eHealth