Drivers

There is currently an over-reliance on the telephone system, emails, faxes or standard mail within Australia’s healthcare record keeping system and this is creating administrative and clinical inefficiencies, such as:

  • Missing documents and information such as discharge summaries, files, referral letters
  • The burden of information carriage is on patients/clients, often resulting in a lack of vital details such as medication lists, x-rays, pathology tests
  • Procedural errors involving the wrong client, wrong treatment area or wrong procedure
  • Violation of privacy and confidentiality by exposed records, misdirected fax/email, careless administration of information
  • Unauthorised access by third party intrusions through insurers, the legal system and administrative arms of health related organisations
  • Lack of patient/client self-awareness and control

In addition, the increasing incidence of chronic medical conditions with the ageing of the population necessitates a move towards a much more integrated treatment modality to ensure effectiveness, which can be provided by an online, secure health records system.

Background

The Australian Government has been talking about an electronic health record since the early 2000s. At that time it established a program within the Department of Health and Ageing called HealthConnect. It conducted fora and workshops around the country introducing the concept and inviting comment. Even at that stage, the most common questions raised were about the protection of privacy and who would have access to the file. Subsequently, State Governments bought into what appeared to be a flagging project and collaboratively funded a body called NEHTA (National E-Health Transition Authority) in 2005. NEHTA's mission was to drive eHealth records in Australia by setting data and hardware standards, create or adopt data elements and develop unique individual health identifiers for patients/clients, providers and provider organisations.

Since it was an initiative driven by the states, it was adopted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and had a new strategic plan confirmed and funded into the future. So NEHTA was no longer in ‘transition' and did have some moderate ‘authority'. High on their list was the IHI, secure messaging, software standards and interconnectivity - getting all the systems to talk to each other.

For more information on NETHA – their work planned to progress the key eHealth record system initiatives have a look at their website