Telstra Health wins government cancer-screening database contract

Telstra will construct and run the new cervical and bowel cancer-screening database, with records to be available online for patients and doctors.

The Commonwealth Department of Health has contracted Telstra Health to construct and run the new Australian National Cancer Screening Register for the next five years, with the database to maintain patient records for cancer testing across the country.

Under the contract, Telstra Health will create a database of cancer records for those who have been screened for bowel and cervical cancer, with patients and doctors able to access the register online. The register will integrate eight existing cervical cancer registers and the current bowel cancer register, with more than 11 million separate records being amalgamated onto a single platform.

"The register will deliver a single database with one record per patient. People will be able to access their records online, and with patient consent, general practitioners and medical specialists will have access to patient data and records from any state or territory from their clinical desktops," Cynthia Whelan, group executive of International and New Businesses at Telstra Health, said.

"This contract demonstrates Telstra's growing capabilities to deliver transformational technology for the health sector, building on our existing successful partnerships with the Australian government on National Telehealth Connection and National Emergency Response.

"It also demonstrates the Telstra Health strategy in action, creating a brand new solution to make healthcare easier by integrating capabilities from across our acquired businesses including Emerging, Dr Foster, Argus, and HealthConnex, as well as industry partners."

The register will be overseen by health professionals, and will link records from federal, state, and territory government agencies, My Health Record, and Medicare, as well as private health service providers, pathologists, and general practices. It will provide mail-based reminders for patients whose cancer screening is due, and a contact centre for those needing assistance.

"The register will overcome the dislocation or duplication of information that can arise when people switch medical providers or move between states. This is when people are at risk of slipping between the gaps," Whelan said.

"We will deliver an end-to-end solution ... each of these groups will be critical partners as we transition to the national register. Health providers will help ensure the new systems will work for them and their patients, while the managers of the existing registers will bring considerable expertise and experience to the partnership."

Telstra has had a recent focus on supplying and encouraging technology-based health solutions; in December, Telstra Health announced it successfully implemented an enterprise electronic medical record (EMR) system at the two newest Australian hospitals, which will complement the government's My Health Record System and the hospitals' own administration system.

"We know the importance of integration and interoperability in the success of eHealth solutions," Russel Duncan, managing director of Telstra Health's Emerging Systems, said at the time.

In April 2015, Telstra Health also signed a deal to acquire telehealth service Anywhere Healthcare in order to provide access to more than 1,600 GPs and 26 specialists to those located in regional and remote areas.

The health arm of Telstra acquired UK health analytics company Dr Foster in March last year. Telstra Health launched in October 2014 with the express purpose of bringing telehealth services to those in remote areas.

Telstra also signed a multimillion-dollar three-year contract to exclusively provide telco services to health insurance company Medibank Private, and in October, Telstra Health acquired e-health management company EOS Technologies to be amalgamated as part of its HealthConnex business.

The Australian government's own e-health record system was switched on in 2012, and given a further AU$485 million in funding during the 2015-16 Budget. At the same time, it was rebranded from the "personally controlled e-health record system" (PCEHR) to My Health Record.

Health Minister Sussan Ley last year said a properly functioning national e-health system could save taxpayers up to AU$2.5 billion per year within a decade's time, with another AU$1.6 billion per year savings for the states.

A 2013 review of the system by former Minister for Health Peter Dutton had suggested the system be made opt-out in order to improve signup numbers. In September 2015, the government responded by introducing legislation that will see e-health accounts automatically assigned to patients.