eHealth standards up in the air as IT-014 program ends

Standards Australia is restructuring the technical committee that coordinates the development of eHealth standards following the end of its 2012-2014 work program, with no forward work program agreed for the new financial year.

Technical committee IT-014 covers both health informatics and telehealth, and is charged with overseeing the development of standards and technical specifications in the areas of eHealth information security, messaging and communications, electronic health record interoperability and clinical decision support.

Following the restructure, all unfinished projects will be required to be resubmitted for assessment through Standards Australia's proposed projects process, and the committee will serve only as a 'mirror' committee for the International Standards Organisation's technical committee 215 (ISO TC/215).

In early June, Standards Australia held a forum to discuss the future plan in relation to health informatics standards development. At that forum, the organisation advised that it planned to make operational and administrative changes when the 2012-2014 work program ended on June 30.

At the time, it said that there was no forward work program agreed beyond that date, and that it would take the opportunity to review its committee structure.

It said that any unfinished projects would be deferred, but that it remained “ready to facilitate health informatics standards development”.

In a hint that there is much disagreement over eHealth standards development in light of the unprecedented changes to the eHealth sector over the last few years, Standards Australia said there had been a number of challenges in the work program but that despite this, a record number of documents had been published in the period.

A Standards Australia spokesperson said the restructure was not due to funding issues.

”Standards Australia took the opportunity to review its committee structures when the previous work program came to an end in June 2014,” the spokesperson said.

“Funding is not a factor in the review although we did take the opportunity to review our committee structure at a time when the forward work program has yet to be settled.

“Standards Australia is reviewing its committee structures for health informatics standards development to ensure that the contributions made by all lead to outcomes in the national interest. This is business as usual for us. It is also business as usual for us to align national committees with international committees.”

The spokesperson said that aside from the international mirror work, all projects which did not complete through the previous work program will be required to be resubmitted for assessment.

This does not mean that Australian standards development would not continue, the spokesperson said. “We welcome project proposals for international as well as national project development work. We are in discussions with stakeholders in relation to a forward work program which includes national and international standards development work.

“All projects for the adoption and development of Australian standards follow the same process. We require a project proposal setting out the scope of work, evidencing broad stakeholder support from industry, government and consumer interests and a net benefit assessment indicating that the project work would lead to a net benefit to the Australian community.

“We are accepting proposals in the current round of Standards Australia resourced projects."

In terms of the development of technical specifications for the PCEHR, which is one of the roles of the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), the spokesperson said Standards Australia was “working with a range of stakeholders interested in continuing this work program through Standards Australia”.

Mention was made at the June forum of the potential role for the Australian Commission for Electronic Health (ACeH), which the Royle review panel into the PCEHR recommended be established in place of NEHTA.

Recommendation 10 of the review encouraged the establishment of a regulatory body that would monitor and ensure compliance against eHealth standards that are set and maintained by ACeH.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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