HIC 2014: Telstra rejects rumours it wants to take over PCEHR

Telstra Health has moved to quash rumours that it plans to build a national eHealth platform that would take the place of the PCEHR, saying its strategy to invest in six different areas of eHealth capability is complementary to the national system, not a rival.

Telstra Health revealed at the Information Technology in Aged Care conference in Hobart last month that it is working on a method to bring the silos of information held in GP, pharmacy and aged care software systems together and said it plans to release more information on this platform in the coming months.

However, at the Health Informatics Conference (HIC) in Melbourne yesterday, Telstra's head of health, Shane Solomon, rejected rumours that this new platform would take the place of the PCEHR, or that the company planned to make a bid to take over the system.

Telstra has ignited interest in the eHealth industry with several acquisitions and investments over the last 18 months in a number of health IT companies, including HealthEngine, Fred IT, Health Connex (formerly DCA eHealth Solutions) and Verdi.

Asked in a Q&A session by ABC journalist Tony Jones if the company was positioning itself to take over the eHealth record system, Mr Solomon said no. He said the new platform Telstra was developing was a fundamental part of the company's strategy, “but it is not about the PCEHR”.

“It is about connecting islands of technology and islands of information,” Mr Solomon said. “We believe that to reduce hospital readmissions you have to use multiple technologies, not just a record.

“The record is a part of it, and a critical part of it that we would love to be able to extract is what I define as the PCEHR – not the view, which is badly designed - [but] the data that is behind the view.”

Mr Solomon said that now that the government had established some foundations for a national eHealth system, the private sector can begin to build value-added technologies for it.

Responding to criticisms of the design of the PCEHR, Department of Health CIO Paul Madden accepted that it was not a user-friendly record but argued that it was a starting point. He also accepted that the methods chosen to communicate the existence and potential benefits of the system had been poor.

Mr Madden said that with the review of the system completed and another year's worth of funding allocated, the federal government had shown it was committed to the system.

“The government is committed to an eHealth strategy, but one that is a working eHealth strategy that delivers the benefits,” he said. “Now, we need to get a system which is unified and supported by and depended on by clinicians, the patients and the consumers, and when I say clinicians it’s all of the people in healthcare provision.

“[W]e haven't made this particularly intuitive or user friendly. We haven't done it through the eyes of the clinicians … We need to find out how to bridge that gap between informaticians and … the grassroots GPs.

“We did spend a few years trying to communicate what was happening in eHealth and that didn't permeate to the level that was needed. The new approach that we need to work on is how to take those messages directly to the community.

“The way to teach people how to use a computer system is to sit with them and let them use it so they build confidence. You don't show them on a whiteboard, you don't do it in a webinar and you certainly don't do it on a set of Powerpoint slides.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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