Paving the way for eHealth

The fog surrounding exactly how eHealth records will be implemented has lifted somewhat, with the government offering funding for aged care software vendors to modify their products to comply with the new system.

The government is courting aged care software vendors and industry representatives ahead of the introduction of personally controlled eHealth records.

Last weekend, the National E-health Transition Authority (NEHTA) called for expressions of interest from aged care industry software vendors to join a panel and work together on the transition to the new standards set by the authority.

A statement from NEHTA said financial assistance would be provided to “successful panellists” to help them upgrade software products to the right specifications, and that vendors would need to have developed working solutions by June 2012.

Chief executive of the Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA), Rod Young, has welcomed the promise of funding to help aged care software vendors with “the fairly onerous task of becoming enabled to meet the NEHTA standards”.

“In addition ACAA … will be supported through a separate contract with the Department [of Health and Ageing] to work with the clients of those vendors to advise them about the benefits of [their software] becoming compliant with the NEHTA standards for personally controlled eHealth records, and how they can then use that to better integrate with other parts of the health system, ” Mr Young said. 

The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) has also welcomed the announcements, after previously expressing confusion over the lack of detail in the draft PCEHR legislation.

ACIITC chair, Suri Ramanathan, said the council had been working closely with aged care IT vendors, providers and the government to ensure the industry is supported to maximize the benefits that can be achieved from the deployment of quality IT systems. 

“The ACIITC partners will work closely with government to ensure maximum benefit is achieved from this project and that in particular, the lessons learned from the project are made available to the rest of the industry to further support IT take up and innovative IT deployments that support business process re-design to maximize the benefits for staff and clients,” Mr Ramanathan said.

The acting CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Rob Hankins, linked the greater use of information technology in aged care to the sector’s longstanding workforce issues.

“Aged care will face unprecedented demand for workers over the next thirty years both in community care in peoples homes and in care homes,” Mr Hankins said. “Without the maximum integration of information technologies in the care environment we will struggle to attract and retain the necessary staff with the appropriate skills to achieve quality outcomes for our clients and residents.”

The Minister for Mental Health, Ageing and Social Inclusion, Mark Butler, also extended the same invitation to software vendors, and confirmed that ACAA’s role would be to “support vendors and providers and play an ongoing central role in the sector’s involvement in eHealth”.

“Participating vendors and providers will share their learnings and experiences from the project with the broader aged care sector,” Mr Butler said. “This will enable others to benefit from the insights of these early adopters.”

“Sharing knowledge is crucial to help the rollout of eHealth records into the aged care system.” 

The government estimates that the eHealth records system’s medications management capability “could help to save up to 5,000 lives annually, avoid more than 2 million primary care and outpatient visits, 500,000 emergency department visits and 310,000 hospital admissions every year”.

According to Minister Butler, the medication management potential of eHealth records would also be of significant benefit to older Australians, and direct prescriptions from standard medication charts will have already begun by the time of the national eHealth records launch, under the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement.

Tags: acaa, aciitc, acsa, e-health, information-technology, mark-butler,

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