Just three software vendors have signed a developer's agreement with Medicare Australia to test the Federal Government's health identifier system ahead of its planned launch in July.
In the Federal Budget last month, the Federal Government allocated $466.7 million to e-health. Individual health identifiers, unique numbers to be issued to willing Australians to help link medical information, are necessary in order for the initiatives funded by the budget to go ahead. The legislation to enable the introduction of the identifiers is expected to be entered into parliament later this month.
However, during a Federal Budget estimates hearing yesterday, it was revealed that only a small number of software providers had signed on to test their product's interoperability in Medicare's health identifier test environment.
"In March of this year, Medicare Australia made access available to the [health identifier] service IT test environment, which allows clinical IT and software providers to test their interoperability," Health department spokesperson Raelene Thompson said. "They have to sign a developer's agreement to start that process and to date we understand that three have signed."
A Liberal senator questioned how many had not signed but Thompson did not have that information available. She said, however, that Medicare Australia had been working closely with the industry.
"There is a process in place for the software industry to engage in the development of this project," she said. "We understand Medicare have been very keen to engage with the industry to ensure they understand what their concerns might be."
"We are confident that Medicare and [the National E-health Transition Authority] and ourselves are all engaged with the industry and it is absolutely essential for the development of e-health in Australia," she said.
Thompson told the hearing that the identifier system has been built, but that Medicare Australia cannot begin to test the system with live data until the legislation is passed.
"The build is substantially advanced and [...] testing at this stage can only be on non-live data. There would have to be live testing of data following the legislation coming in," she said.
"The regulations would also need to go through their process, which I don't think will be until the end of June."
Earlier this week, Health Minister Nicola Roxon proposed a number of amendments to the health identifier Bill in response to concerns from the Opposition and the Senate Committee that inspected the planned law.