NEHTA unsure of own success

The National E-health Transition Authority (NEHTA) was unable to measure how many organisations were using the products it was creating, according to a secretary for the Department of Health and Aging.

The National E-health Transition Authority (NEHTA) was unable to measure how many organisations were using the products it was creating, according to a secretary for the Department of Health and Aging.

The department secretary, Jane Halton, was being questioned by Liberal Senator Sue Boyce in supplementary budget estimates last week on how many users were taking up NEHTA products such as the electronic discharge summary and its collection of clinical terminology.

"Because this is actually undertaken by states and territories, we will only be able to tell you anecdotally, because we don't know — and there is no mechanism for us to find out — exactly how much penetration there actually is," Halton said.

She was then asked how the Department of Health and Aging was ever going to assess the success of the e-health strategy if that was the case.

"If and when the electronic health record itself is actually funded there will no doubt be put in place a series of quite hard quantitative measures, but in the shorter term in this area we are reliant on the states," Halton said.

Although there was no way to measure how well NEHTA products were being taken up in the market, the authority was progressing on its milestones, according to Halton.

NEHTA had reached its target of having 99 per cent of Therapeutic goods administration products in Australian medicines terminology. It also released a national core discharge summary and created a concept of how a national certification authority for e-health software would operate. Secure messaging was on schedule while the creation of an individual health identifier in conjunction with Medicare was still on track to being delivered by December.

When Boyce raised community concerns that e-health was not progressing, Halton said that people needed to "calm down a bit about this".

Halton replied that she believed the naysayers were being unreasonable. "What they actually want is a significant investment from government now to have everything happen instantly. The bottom line is we are trying to build a reasonable national system that will enable private investment and private engagement," she said.

The e-health work was as good as any elsewhere in the globe, Halton believed. She then moved on to sit on hopes that money might be soon forthcoming from the government to accelerate e-health uptake. "OK, they might want several billion dollars more. That is fine as an ambition. But in terms of taking relevant, logical, ordered steps towards this e-world I think actually we are not doing too badly. "

The report by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission had recommended a $1.2 to $1.9 billion spend.

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