The Australian Capital Territory has allocated $90 million it described as an "unprecedented level of investment" to electronic health initiatives in its annual budget, including an e-health record for all residents of the territory.
Territory treasurer Katy Gallagher said the investment would fund a suite of initiatives that would put the ACT "at the forefront of e-health technology in Australia" and would give all Canberrans an opportunity for an electronic health record. The funding would help improve safety and quality of care in hospitals, she added, with a focus on improving efficiency across the board.
The news comes as the e-health agenda appears to be gaining speed in Australia, with many states having recently flagged projects to finally dump paper records in favour of e-health systems to store and make patient records available between facilities.
NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said over the weekend that the state had initiated a $100 million project to digitise no less than 250 hospitals, following on recommendations made in the Garling review of the state health sector in 2008.
The ACT also allocated millions of dollars in technology funding in a variety of other areas.
For example, Gallagher noted primary schools would benefit from ICT funding in the budget, with $5 million over three years being provided to replace old computers and install new technologies such as smart whiteboards, and a further $2.5 million going to non-government schools for ICT equipment.
The state has received $39.5 million over five years from Kevin Rudd's Digital Education Revolution, which will go to similar initiatives.
In addition, the territory will allocate $9.9 million for a new electrotechnology training facility at Fyshwick Trade Skills Centre, and the Canberra Institute of Technology will receive $4.5 million to facilitate online education.
A further $2.8 million will go to improve the stability and reliability of the state's troubled emergency services Computer Aided Dispatch system through replacing the associated Mobile Data System and improving the service's wide area network. A damning auditor report into the system in late 2007 embarrassed government at the time. The technology is used by emergency staff on vehicles such as fire engines.
The government accounts also revealed its ICT shared services division InTACT would cost it more in the 2009/2010 financial year than it had in 2008, with InTACT's total expenses rising from an estimated $114.1 million last year to a projected $120.4 million in 2009/2010.
The projected increase, the territory said, was mainly due to an increase in expenditure associated with "Commonwealth-funded ICT initiatives, increased consumption, wage and CPI increases".
The division blew its budget slightly in the 2008 year (by $1.57 million), mainly due to higher ICT project and support agreement activity, and higher than forecast contractor expenditure, partially offset by lower than forecast staffing levels and "reduced superannuation contributions".