Members of the National E-Health Transition Authority's
(NEHTA) new stakeholder group have not been gagged, the outgoing CEO
of the publicly funded company said today.
NEHTA, the federal and state government funded company set up in
2001 to establish technology standards for Australia's
e-health systems, recently created a stakeholder reference forum to
address criticisms that it had not adequately engaged medical, clinical
and consumer stakeholders.
Members of the new forum met for the first time in July to agree
upon NEHTA's immediate objectives. But while the group's aim was
to help it communicate with stakeholders, including the public,
members are prevented from talking with media.
"It was reported that we were gagging members and that's
certainly not the intent," outgoing acting NEHTA CEO Andrew Howard
told ZDNet.com.au today.
Howard said that the gag order was so that NEHTA could share more information, not less, and was in line with normal corporate standards. "NEHTA is a company that has responsibilities
and the directors of it have liabilities that any company has," he said.
"It's about being able to engage with members and share budget
figures, issues and taking feedback from that forum. There could be a point where we could discuss the inner
workings of the company, which means they need to be covered by
A major challenge for Australia's e-health plans has been
achieving consensus amongst state health agencies and medical
providers on how to transition away from paper-based systems.
"Today that common vision does exist... Right now there is a
focus on high value transaction services and standardising
information so that clinicians can access it at the point of
care," said Howard.
The first e-health obstacles that stakeholder reference forum members wanted NEHTA to
tackle included systems to support electronic discharge summaries,
pathology reports, specialist referrals and medication management
"If you look back two years ago those discussions weren't
in the Australian marketplace," said Howard.
A blessing and a curse for NEHTA has been Australians' belief
that e-health systems already exist, according to Howard. "People
just think those systems are in place," he said.
The upshot of that misperception was that it was apparent there was
public demand for e-health. "As a result, you will see an
acceleration of e-health and a much stronger national focus from
the public and private sector," the executive added.
NEHTA's board has only recently approved the work program for
the next year, which Howard said included "actively participating
in the implementation of systems" at state health organisations, which
he expects to be heavily involved in when he takes up his role again as
CIO of Victoria's Department of Human Services, which he left temporarily to lead NEHTA after the group's long-standing CEO Ian Reinecke left in April this year.
"NEHTA is working closely with Queensland Health for
[electronic] discharge summaries... As we go through those
implementations, that will inform NEHTA so that others will be able
to learn from lessons in Queensland," Howard said.
The reference forum's next meeting will occur on 29 September, the same day Howard's replacement, newly appointed NEHTA CEO Peter Fleming, is due to start work.