The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) has confirmed that it has had to halt the planned implementation of primary-care desktop software at e-health pilot sites, due to an issue with specifications.
"This pause will impact work currently being undertaken by the primary-care e-health network sites: Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local, Inner East Melbourne Medicare Local, Hunter Urban Medicare Local and Accoras (Brisbane South). Greater Western Sydney, St Vincent's, Calvary, Cradle Coast, NT and Mater will be impacted on the primary care elements of their projects," the authority said in a statement, confirming a report by The Australian.
Only three projects will not be affected: two pilot sites run by Medibank and FredIT; and the Department of Defence's e-health program JEHDI.
NEHTA said that "internal checks" detected problems with a recent release of specifications, which was pushed out in November 2011.
"Our specifications are subject to rigorous assessment processes. These processes highlighted some technical incompatibilities across versions," the authority said.
It stressed that the software hadn't gone live, and that the decision to halt work is a quality-control call in order to reduce risk. It will work with the sites and the software vendors on what to do, given the delay.
"One of the reasons for having these sites was to test software and 'iron out the bugs' prior to the national infrastructure go live," NEHTA said.
Mater Health Services in Brisbane said that it would like to start signing people up to have an electronic-health record by April, and to be connected to the national electronic-health record system by the time the government's deadline to install the system arrives — 1 July.
However, it is not necessary for the sites to get off the ground in order for the national electronic-health record project to succeed, according to the authority.
"The pilot sites were established to test and deploy software and e-health capability in real-world healthcare settings prior to the introduction of the PCEHR. The pilot site and national infrastructure projects have operated in parallel, but neither is a critical dependency for the other project," it said.
"The pilot sites were funded to implement regional e-health capability, and are not part of the national infrastructure for the PCEHR system.
"In large projects of this scale, it is not unusual for problems of this type to arise. We are working to manage this situation to ensure the program is delivered."
ZDNet Australia made a number of queries about how the issue with the specifications had been created, and what the situation means in real terms for developers; however, NEHTA declined to comment further.