HIC2015: Health informatics joins forces on new eHealth agency

Health Minister Sussan Ley

Three of Australia's peak eHealth associations are taking a united front in calling for expertise in health informatics and health information management to be included as part of the proposed Australian Commission for eHealth (ACeH), amid wider industry concerns that the commission will simply be a facsimile of the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA).

The Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA), the Australasian College of Health Informatics (ACHI) and the Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA) met during the Health Informatics Conference (HIC) in Brisbane this week and agreed they would take a united position on the importance of health informatics expertise in the make-up of AceH.

The announcement came as federal Health Minister Sussan Ley (pictured) told conference delegates that the government valued their individual efforts.

The establishment of the commission was a key recommendation of the 2013 Royle review of the PCEHR, which also recommended strong governance arrangements and a wide board membership, as well as the abolition of NEHTA, which it found did not have the confidence of the industry.

It recommended the board be comprised of an independent chair along with general and specialist medical practitioners, allied health providers, pharmacists, nurses, aged care providers and private hospital operators, representatives from the federal, state and territory health and human services departments, a consumer representative and one from the health software industry.

However, there was no mention of health informatics or health information management expertise.

ACHI president Klaus Veil, HISA chair David Hansen and HIMAA president Sallyanne Wissmann said in a joint statement released at HIC that they believed in a coordinated approach.

“Our three organisations believe that the current implementation of the PCEHR does not realise the benefits originally sought and expected,” Mr Veil said.

Dr Hansen said HISA shared the concern that without effective and knowledgeable governance by the proposed ACeH, the goals originally envisaged for the PCEHR will not be achieved.

“This level of governance cannot be achieved without representation from both the health informatics and health information management peak bodies,” he said.

Ms Wissmann said HIMAA would welcome the opportunity to work with the department on improvements to the PCEHR that would enhance achieving the common goal of better healthcare for all Australians.

They pointed to a survey jointly conducted by HISA and HIMAA as part of the Department of Health's discussion process on legislative changes to the PCEHR and HI Service acts, which found that more than 90 per cent of respondents either 'strongly agreed' or 'agreed' that the proposed ACeH board and its advisory committees should include both health informatics and health information management expertise alongside healthcare providers, healthcare consumers and IT systems providers.

“HISA and HIMAA both strongly recommend to the government that health informatics and health information management expertise be present at all levels of governance within ACeH,” they said in their submission. “The skill sets, knowledge base and experience of health informatics and health information management professionals is critical to the success of e-health initiatives.”

In its submission, ACHI identified 30 recommendations it believes will enable the originally planned benefits of the PCEHR to be realised.

ACHI recommended that the commission's brief include data governance and mandating compliance with Australian technical standards, and that consumers also be represented.

It also recommended that the department ensure ACeH effectively advised the COAG Standing Council on Health on national eHealth policy and that it consider including senior expertise in health informatics, system architecture, networking, semantic interoperability, health data, and system evaluation, testing and credentialing in the governance of ACeH.

The three groups said they will jointly continue to pursue a common approach on the membership and governance of the proposed ACeH with the common goal of an effective national electronic health record as an enabler of better healthcare for all Australians.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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