Connecting healthcare across hospitals, the home and the community underpins the vision of New South Wales’ federated approach to e-health, the state’s health minister told a digital health forum in Sydney yesterday.
Speaking at the Health-e-Nation Leadership Summit, NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner gave an update on the state’s $1.5 billion plan for e-health as outlined in a blueprint she launched in December last year.
Ms Skinner said one of the most important changes was the adoption of a federated approach where the framework and standards will be centralised but local health districts free to select and procure systems to suit local needs.
Health-e-Nation brings together leaders from health and aged care, government and IT to discuss the future of digital health in Australia.
Reflecting the summit’s theme of ‘Powerful Health Connections’ Ms Skinner noted the State Government’s recently announced investment of $120 million over four years to help local health districts form partnerships to enable more integrated care provision.
“It is this idea of integrating and connecting healthcare from the hospital to home and from within the community that also underpins the way forward for e-health in NSW,” Ms Skinner said.
“We need to join the dots on standalone systems so they can talk together and keep information flowing so that clinicians, whether they are in a hospital or in a community setting, a GP’s office or a pharmacy for that matter, are connected to the information they need to provide the highest quality care.”
Ms Skinner said the blueprint for e-health provided a plan to join those dots and drive development and investment in digital health technologies across the state.
The way forward
Key features of the blueprint include establishing eHealth NSW to guide e-health across the state and federated governance arrangements, developing the 2014 – 2018 strategic plan for e-health in NSW, and building e-health capacity and connectivity.
As part of the government’s $1.5 billion investment in eHealth NSW over 10 years, $400 million has been allocated for ICT capacity building programs including electronic medication management and community health and outpatients care.
Ms Skinner said eHealth NSW would embed best practice and implement key ICT operational investments.
“Recruitment for eHealth NSW chief executive, chief information officer and a chief clinical officer is proceeding and we expect to have these leaders on board in coming weeks. With these leaders in place we expect eHealth NSW to be functioning as its own organisation by mid-year.”
She said eHealth NSW’s federated governance approach, which corresponds to the geographic provision of hospital and community health services, recognised that effective and timely adoption of e-health solutions could only be done in partnership with local health districts and clinicians.
“eHealth NSW will be responsible for setting e-health strategy, policy and standards while local health districts will be responsible for supporting and the implementation of state-wide core systems and ensure compliance with state-wide standards.
“Perhaps most importantly local health districts will be free to select, procure and support local functions and systems ensuring that local systems meets local needs,” Ms Skinner told delegates.
Regarding the development of the five-year strategic plan, Ms Skinner said research and consultation was underway to gain the perspectives of NSW health clinicians, administrators and ICT leaders. The plan will also include a more targeted rural health strategy, which Ms Skinner said was also underway.
Elsewhere at the summit, commonwealth Department of Health secretary Professor Jane Halton announced that 1.5 million people had now registered for a personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR), Australia’s national eHealth record system.