Future of NEHTA and PCEHR still undecided
The federal government has not made a decision on funding the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) beyond the end of the financial year.
It is also still considering the governance arrangements for eHealth that were recommended by the Royle review into the PCEHR, with no word yet as to whether it will continue funding its operations beyond June 30.
Pulse+IT understands from two independent sources that NEHTA staff expect the agency will be closed from July 1 or its activities folded into a new organisation.
The office of the new Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, passed on questions about NEHTA's future to the Department of Health (DoH), which said no decision had been made by the government regarding its funding beyond June 30.
On the PCEHR, a DoH spokeswoman said, "there were recommendations regarding the future governance arrangements for eHealth included in the review of the PCEHR which are currently under consideration."
The Royle review was commissioned by the former minister for health, Peter Dutton, on November 3, 2013, with a direction to inquire into the level of use of the system and whether what had been promised had been delivered.
Mr Dutton requested that the review panel report back to him by mid-December 2013. Mr Dutton made a brief announcement that the review had been delivered on December 20, but it was not released publicly until May 19, 2014, a week after the federal budget.
That budget made provision for one extra year of funding for the operation of the PCEHR to the tune of $140 million, which also included the Commonwealth's share of funds for the operation of NEHTA for another year.
The Department of Health was then requested to run a series of consultation meetings facilitated by Deloitte in August and September 2014.
The former minister's office did not respond publicly to either the review or the consultation meetings, although Mr Dutton told a conference in May last year that he supported most of the recommendations from the PCEHR review, including the opt-out model. The review originally recommended that this be adopted from January 1 this year.
“I need to see whether there is community support for opt-out arrangements, and I sense that there is, and I think from there we can provide a response fairly quickly,” Mr Dutton said.
He said the funding for the PCEHR and NEHTA for a further year would give the government time to make changes to the operation of the system, but also admitted there were contractual obligations with private sector partners that meant there would be a cost to government if the system was shut down.
“[The $140m] is essentially providing certainty around the funding arrangements now and then we will allocate money in a contingency reserve and look at next year's budget to see if the funding will be ongoing,” he said.
“We have allowed ourselves this financial year with the additional funding because there are recommendations around structural change in relation to NEHTA and in relation to other aspects of the governance arrangements … so I’m hoping that from there we can respond quickly and in the next few months I’m hoping that we will have a better map going forward in terms of what we have accepted by way of the recommendations.”
Mr Dutton was moved to the immigration portfolio in the December 21 cabinet reshuffle, with Sussan Ley promoted to the health ministry.
The development of technical standards and specifications for eHealth is also unclear. In addition to the indecision over NEHTA, Standards Australia last year decided to defer any unfinished work from the IT-014 technical committee's 2012-2014 work program.
New standards development for eHealth will now be required to go through Standards Australia's regular proposed projects process.
The Royle review recommended that a new Australian Commission for Electronic Health (AceH) be established to oversee governance and compliance with standards, which would report directly to the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) Standing Council on Health (SCoH).
Posted in Australian eHealth