Opinion: It’s time to get involved in eHealth

This story first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Former AMA president Steve Hambleton was appointed chairman of the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) in June, and was a member of the three-person panel that conducted a review of the PCEHR for the federal government late last year. The review's report, released in May, recommended a number of changes to the national eHealth system, including the dissolution of NEHTA.

What is eHealth? It is probably one of the sector's most discussed and yet misunderstood terms. This is disappointing because few developments over the coming years will have as much impact on how patient care is delivered.

I believe an effective eHealth system is essential for Australia. A huge amount of investment has gone into IT in this country, and I think there is a real opportunity to make sure we leverage off the investment we’ve made so far and get outcomes that are meaningful.

NEHTA has delivered the solid foundational products that we need including individual healthcare identifiers, medicines and disease terminology, secure messaging, and the infrastructure. This has, in effect, created the national eHealth rail gauge (and some of the rolling stock) for securely transporting and sharing clinical information.

Much of the planning and development conducted by NEHTA since 2005 has now been delivered. However, it’s too simple to define the promise of eHealth by the complex technologies that will enable and support connected care. This is ultimately not about technology; it’s about people. People like you and me, people that share the eHealth goal of safer, quality healthcare for all Australians.

I strongly believe we are on the verge of something that will be fantastic for our health system and will deliver some of the long-term structural savings that we really need. NEHTA’s outputs and standard setting over the past nine years have set Australia up for the 21st century. Widespread adoption and utilisation of those standards and protocols will allow us to communicate better and gain efficiencies across the sector.

This is a watershed moment for our health system where the points of care can finally be connected, and deliver safer, better quality care with fewer errors, and ultimately, fewer lives lost.

I was fortunate enough to be part of the government’s review panel, chaired by Richard Royle, into the implementation and uptake of Australia’s PCEHR system. When the review was released in May, it contained 38 recommendations to address shortcomings of the system and make it more effective for doctors and patients.

Overall, we found strong support for continuing to develop and implement a consistent and effective shared electronic health record for all Australians. The government is currently in consultation with key stakeholders to understand the issues and consider the implications of the recommendations. It is important to note that the feedback I am getting from government is also positive and shares my view that eHealth has a strong future.

To read the full story, click here for the August 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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