Shaping the future of Australian healthcare

In December 2007, NEHTA announced an action plan to move towards implementation and adoption of e-health.

“After working to build foundations for electronic health since the organisation was established in 2005, we are now in a position to begin to deliver some concrete applications of our work,” NEHTA’s Chair Dr Tony Sherbon said.

“The new Federal Government has signaled health reform and improvements in state and federal relations as major policy objectives,” said Dr Sherbon. “Given also the government’s emphasis on the provision and use of broadband communications, NEHTA is well-positioned to play its role in advancing e-health as part of this new agenda,” he said.

NEHTA announced the action plan focused on four key areas for electronic communications in 2008: pathology, medication management, discharge and referral. In addition, NEHTA will continue to focus on the delivery of:

  • National infrastructure programs including the Unique Healthcare Identifiers Services, National Authentication Service for Health and Clinical Terminologies; and
  • Compliance, Conformance and Accreditation program, with a view to establishing a software integration testing and accreditation function.

The NEHTA program 2008

Every day, in every site of healthcare delivery in Australia, healthcare providers are collecting, communicating and exchanging information, of sometimes critical importance to their patients and the quality of care they can deliver. Clinical communications between doctors and hospitals, clinics and laboratories, GPs and pharmacies are standard procedure in the workplace of every health provider. While some healthcare communications are electronic, the vast majority remain paper-based – a system with real and present flaws that can limit the speed, flow and accuracy of vital health information.

NEHTA is working on a national platform to provide everyone with access to the right technology. The following principles underpin our approach to e-health:

Identification: A national system to reliably identify the parties involved is important to improving the quality and safety of healthcare. Health identifiers will be given to patients, healthcare providers and professionals so that there will be no misunderstandings. Providers will also have secure and simple authentication processes to allow them to access the systems that contain the electronic healthcare information.

Clinical terminologies: Computer systems used by healthcare providers will have software to interpret the clinical information (or terminology) being input by the provider or organisation about a patient. This is another way to ensure that the communication is accurate and can be easily understood by the recipient.

Message security: When a healthcare provider sends a message or a lab sends a test result, it is critical to know that the message will be transmitted to the recipient without interference or access during transmission. E-health ensures the safest and best method of delivering healthcare information.

Privacy: As with all healthcare communications we want to ensure that our information is safe and protected. E-health systems have secure measures in place to protect information and provide audits on who has accessed the information.

Choice: Finally, choice is a critical element in the delivery of healthcare. Patients are empowered to choose to participate in e-health.

The most common healthcare communications - first off the mark

The following common healthcare communications will be the first to be developed:

Receiving pathology results seamlessly: E-pathology ensures a pathology test is accurately identified so there are no mistakes and quality of care is improved. Results can be delivered electronically, saving time and streamlining the process of patient testing.

Prompt accurate patient reports: With e-discharge summaries, hospitals will be able to send a patient’s hospital record directly to the patient’s healthcare provider in a comprehensive report that again contains the ID of the patient and providers of care, so it is clear who received the hospital care and exactly what was provided.

Comprehensive patient referrals: E-referrals are sent safely by electronic means by the referring healthcare provider. Again referrals will be tagged with the IDs of healthcare consumers and providers and the information contained in the referral will be clear and comprehensive because it has been transmitted through e-health.

Instant, accurate prescriptions: Through e-medication management, prescriptions would be accurately and securely transmitted from the desktop to the pharmacy.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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