E-health: slow and steady wins the race

NEHTA’s CEO has defended the long lead time for rolling out an e-health network at the ITAC Conference in Melbourne.

Even though Australia may look as though it is dragging its feet when it comes to electronic health reform, slow and steady could well win the race.

The rate of progress in developing an e-health network was one of the main topics of discussion on the first day of the Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) conference in Melbourne.

The CEO of the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), Peter Fleming, justified the long implementation period, saying advances must be taken in small steps now to avoid large mistakes in the future.

“Once we get it right, we will roll it out big time so that we can avoid any mistakes,” Mr Fleming said.

“You need to understand the possible workflow situations to work with it to get it right.”

Last month the government passed legislation to enable Individual Healthcare Identifiers (IHIs) which will enable providers to identify and manage patient information.

The introduction was seen as a fundamental move towards the eventual implementation of individual health records that will in future support e-prescribing.

Mr Fleming described the IHIs the “building blocks” for further reform: “The key is now to move from the foundation to the implementation.”

“We’re slightly behind the eight-ball [in Australia] but on the other hand we have the ability to catch up quickly.

“If you go into a pharmacy, around 100 per cent of them are automated. If you go to a GP’s practice, you’ll see that 98 per cent of them are computerised.

“That’s a huge step forward. We definitely have gaps on the technological side with aged care but it’s a starting point.”

Calling on providers to help the government move e-health forward, Mr Fleming sounded a call to action.

“Participate in consultations and engagements. Take part in NEHTA workshops and talk to your vendors about e-health.

“People say that aged care is the poor cousin of health reform and e-health,” said Mr Fleming. “I’m here to say that it is not”.

He said aged care had been identified as one of the four key target areas of e-health.

Tags: e-health, itac, nehta, peter-fleming,

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