E-health record signup boost on back of public hospital push

A total of 1.4 million Australians have registered for an e-health record as public hospitals have been increasingly encouraging patients to sign up for the service.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Take-up of personally controlled e-health records (PCEHR) in Australia is on the rise, with 1.4 million customers registering for the service as of February 26.

Health Department e-health division first assistant secretary Linda Powell told Senate Estimates last night that 1.4 million consumers have registered since the launch in mid-2012, with the bulk of registrations coming from New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland.

The drive in take-up, which is up from 900,000 in November last year, was largely due to public hospitals registering patients, she said. A total of 155 public hospitals across Australia are now using the system to upload discharge summaries.

Department secretary Jane Halton said that the public hospitals have been critical in getting customers on board.

"It's interesting to watch those numbers. We're seeing high 3,000 [to] low 4s every business day of people who are being registered, and that is coming from the state hospitals starting to connect," she said.

But while registrations are up, the use of the system is still relatively low, comparatively. As of yesterday, there were 19,227 discharge summaries in the system, 15,544 shared health summaries, and 89,000 dispense drug documents detailing a patient's prescriptions.

The system, which launched in 2012, and has cost the government well over AU$1 billion, is currently under review by the new federal government due to a perceived low take-up rate. In December, Health Minister Peter Dutton received a report on the review from UnitingCare executive director Richard Royale, Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton, and Australia Post CIO Andrew Walduck, but the report has not yet been made public.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by technology website Delimiter was refused on the grounds that the department did not have a copy of the report at the time.

"It was not provided because the department did not have that report on that date," Halton said yesterday.

Halton could not answer when the department received the report, and would not say whether the report would now be released under the original FOI request, except to say that the original FOI request is no longer active.

ZDNet has filed another FOI request seeking to obtain the report.

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