Govt trumpets online e-health sign-ups

Amid reports of ongoing troubles with the implementation of the national e-health record system, the Department of Health has highlighted the success of the system, with 3563 signing up so far.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Department of Health and Ageing has spruiked its success in signing up over 3500 users to its personally-controlled e-health record system in over three weeks, amid claims of issues plaguing the system since its launch.

In 2010, the government promised that it would create an electronic health record system by 1 July 2012, so that every Australian who wanted a record of their medical history online could sign up for one.

Despite there not being an online registration form made available when the system first launched, more Australians have signed up online for an e-health record than through any other method. According to stats provided to ZDNet, as of 24 July 2012, a total of 3563 people have signed up for e-health records, with 87 per cent (or 3099) of these registering online. The remaining 13 per cent (or 464) registered via phone, in writing or in person.

Although the department has indicated that it is aiming for a slow take-up rate for the e-health records, based on these early rates, the government will still fall far short of its initial expectations of 500,000 users in the first 12 months. At the current rate, the system is signing up 148 users per day, equating to approximately 54,000 in the first year of operation.

This week, The Australian reported that the National E-Health Transition Authority, which is overseeing the implementation of the system, recommended to the government that the launch be delayed as there were over 60 highly critical bugs in the system. According to the report, this recommendation was rejected by the Department of Health.

Health denied the claims made in the report.

"No critical defects remained at the time of release and, to date, more than 3500 people have registered for an e-health record," the department said. "The release of the e-health record system was based appropriately on advice from experts in IT, cybersecurity and system operations, [that were] overseeing the project."

The department said that the system had undergone checks by the Department of Defence, Finance and the Attorney-General, and was constantly monitored to detect and fix bugs, "before they impact users".

Earlier this month, however, it was also reported that national infrastructure partner Accenture failed to detect a hack on the new system, shortly after it launched. Health has denied that the system was hacked.

"The PCEHR system has undergone extensive testing and has never been hacked," the department said.

The system has also been plagued by minor bugs, such as being unable to interpret apostrophes in name fields.

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