The nation's peak e-health group has released a comprehensive set of documents that outline how the Federal Government's $466.7 million electronic health identifier project will be implemented over the coming years, and how it will work in practice.
The project is slated to see all Australians allocated a unique identification number enabling medical records to be transferred — with their consent — between medical providers such as hospitals and general practitioner doctors electronically, rather than through paper records, as is often the case today.
However, so far details on how it will be implemented have been scant.
In the documents, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) said there would need to be three complementary programs of work to be undertaken for the project to move forward.
Firstly, a change management program would need to be carried out that would depend on what NEHTA said was the "nature of the healthcare business" and the current state of its IT systems. In this program, industry peak bodies will be involved as well as other organisations.
Secondly, NEHTA said medical software vendors would need to be provided with assistance so that their products could communicate with the healthcare identifier service. Well-designed specifications would need to be provided to assist with their implementation of standards.
Lastly, NEHTA said it would be necessary to identify and establish early adopter sites that could demonstrate the use of the technology in supporting outcomes. The organisation is planning to collaborate with key organisations that would be prepared to get involved early, which will produce lessons learned, research and toolkits from the process.
Work has already begun at several early stage roll-out sites for the project, with Health Minister Nicola Roxon announcing during the recent election campaign that three GP networks would start to implement the technology. The three GP networks will be GPpartners in Brisbane, GP Access in New South Wales' Hunter Valley and the Melbourne East GP Network in Victoria.
"This is an important step forward in allowing online access to health records for each Australian that chooses to," said Roxon at the time, noting the networks were chosen because they already have strong e-health capability within their communities.
NEHTA's plan also includes a strong focus on communicating the system to the public — communication being an area the organisation has been faulted on in the past. Work has also started in a concrete fashion on the technical side of the project — several weeks ago the organisation went to market for a supplier to deliver what it called a "National Authentication Service for Health" (NASH), which will be a core component of the project.