E-health laws pass parliament

Summary:The legislation required to set up the government's planned personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system passed parliament yesterday.

The legislation required to set up the government's planned personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system passed parliament yesterday.

The Federal Government said that the system will bring the management of health records into the 21st century, and will provide life-saving information in emergencies.

The legislation passed the Senate with the support of the Coalition, despite concerns about privacy from some opposition senators.

The system aims to reduce the number of hospital admissions from medication errors, which equate to around 190,000 per year, as well as cutting down on medical errors because of inadequate patient information.

Australians' health records will be available online and protected by encrypted passwords.

The PCEHR system will be rolled out over time beginning on 1 July, although with less functionality at the beginning than was originally expected.

As it stands, patients will be able to register for an e-health record, but not much else. GPs won't get the software to upload patient details to the system until later this year, and there are other elements of the roll-out that are incomplete; for example, the National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) was supposed to be completed by the end of this month.

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells raised concerns about the roll-out of the system, and sought a launch date from the government, particularly if a planned launch in Sydney on 2 July is still proceeding.

Labor Senator Jan McLucas said she had no information about the date, but said that the system is undergoing a final round of vigorous testing.

"We know this is a complex area of national reform," she said.

"I think Australians ... will be far more interested in getting a quality personally controlled electronic health record, rather than when there will be a launch."

People can register for the system by phone, or by going into Medicare.

The Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Bill 2011 and the related Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011 both passed the Senate with amendments.

The Bills now go to the governor-general for royal assent.

Suzanne Tindal contributed to this article.

Topics: Health

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