Opinion: new approach to eHealth, but will it be a waste?
Alison Verhoeven is the chief executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).
The AHHA cautiously welcomes the government’s investment in eHealth, newly rebadged as MyHealthRecord.
Centrelink’s investment in IT systems, and the Department of Health’s investment in expanded analytical capability, have the potential to positively contribute to improved health data resources for Australia, particularly if health data linkage programs are supported.
Such eHealth records have the potential to be an effective tool supporting high quality healthcare, but a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of both clinicians and consumers is required. Efforts also need to be made to ensure the wasteful approaches of the past are brought to an end.
The uptake by both patients and clinicians of the former personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) has been extremely limited. To make the appropriate treatment decisions and develop suitable care plans, clinicians require timely access to relevant parts of their patients’ medical history.
It is heartening to note that Dr Steve Hambleton, chair of the panel carrying out the review of chronic disease funding, has suggested the potential for eHealth records to be linked to Medicare-funded care plans for patients with complex problems. However, this will require an eHealth system that meets the needs of both clinicians and patients.
The government rushed a review of the PCEHR through in six weeks in late 2013, but then didn’t release the report for a further six months. Twelve months later the government has not released a formal response to the review, relying on piecemeal budget responses instead.
The AHHA supported a move to an opt-out system in our submission to the PCEHR Review in 2013 and we welcome the adoption of this approach by the government. Our other key messages to the review remain relevant and should inform the further development of the PCEHR:
- Focus on enhancing information exchange between systems rather than developing additional data repositories
- Identify and address the barriers to clinician and patient participation
- Provide incentives to engage clinicians beyond hospitals and general practice, and
- Achieve a suitable balance between the clinician’s need for information and the patient’s right to privacy.
These remain our priorities but, given the lack of information from the government, it is difficult to know if this new allocation of funds will finally deliver some significant progress or if it will be more of the same staggering steps towards the goal of a better connected health system.
Posted in Australian eHealth