Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Health Minister Nicola Roxon released a report on the nation's hospitals today by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (NHHRC) which recommends a $1.2 to 1.9 billion spend on e-health.
The report endorsed the recommendations of the National e-health
completed by Deloitte last year. Its figure for rolling out
a National e-health agenda of $1185 to $1865 million roughly mirrored
the consultant's original
reported amount for implementing its national strategy.
In addition to Deloitte's recommendations, the NHHRC put out a
plea for better leadership on e-health. "We urge the Commonwealth
Government to take responsibility for accelerating and adequately
resourcing implementation of a National e-health Action Plan which
incorporates strengthened national leadership to direct and
revitalise implementation and which values and actively seeks the
expert guidance of key stakeholders," it said.
The report acknowledged that the work had been already completed but
pointed out how far Australia had to go. "There is increasing
frustration and mounting cynicism with the pace of action on
implementing a national e-health platform. The lack of visible
utility at the point of care has resulted in calls to stop the
'talkfest' and get on with setting a dedicated budget and definite
delivery date with clear responsive and responsible governance for
electronically enabling the health system: e-health."
There was still a "small window of opportunity" to capitalise on
the money the nation had already spent on a national e-health
system, it said. If that window were missed, the cost would be
The report called for every Australian to have an electronic
health record by 2012, controlled by them so they could allow
chosen providers access to their health information. Funding for
this record could come from the patient, their health fund
or employers. Governments could help fund those in need.
The report outlined milestones to reach this point, with the
first being personal identifiers and health organisation
identifiers to be in place on 1 July 2010. It also
suggested a system to authenticating patient identity by this
The report recommended that hospitals, pathology and digital
image providers be able to send key data by 1 July 2012. Other
providers such as GPs and specialists would need to take up the
baton by 1 July 2013. The authors pointed out that this would
require incentives and training. The report suggested that the
government make payments to health providers and organisations
contingent on being able to send and receive patient's data in a
format that can be put into an e-health record.
Electronic health records would only work where there was free flow of information and no
little pockets of non-standard data, according to the report. Work on a national policy and
technical standards framework needed to be accelerated so that they
could be in place by 2011 or 2012.
The government will consider the report's recommendations over the
coming months with input from the public.
"The report is clear — 'business as usual' is not going to be
sustainable in the coming years and decades. We simply won't have
the resources to keep doing things the way we are doing them in the
future," Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.
"Some of the recommendations from the report are controversial,
some will inspire robust debate. It wouldn't be a report worth its
salt if it did not, as real fundamental reform will always generate
conversation," she said.