The Western Australian government has awarded a contract to Telstra Health to roll out a AU$10 million Community Health Information System in an effort to "close the gap" in access to health information between metro residents and those living in rural areas.
The health information system is designed to record data on children's health, including their vaccinations, as well as providing information about public health issues, management of chronic diseases, antenatal health, and pharmacies that provide community-based clinical services.
It will also monitor health reforms, allowing the system to improve the provision of health services in these areas.
The health system will be funded using part of the government's AU$500 million Southern Inland Health Initiative, which was obtained via the Liberal National government's Royalties for Regions program.
"The Community Health Information System will provide an electronic clinical record for patients attending Western Australia Country Health Service's community and primary health centres," Western Australian Health Minister John Day said.
"It will help streamline consistent health care across Western Australia, particularly for highly mobile patients and high-risk client groups, and will promote better regional health outcomes."
The system, to be run by the Western Australia Country Health Service (WACHS), will be introduced in the Kimberley region in May 2017, and will be extended in future to the other six Country Health Service catchments in Western Australia: The Pilbara, Midwest, Goldfields, Wheatbelt, South West, and Great Southern regions.
Telstra Health said it would be using its Communicare solution for the service, which is suited for large areas.
"Communicare is already Australia's leading health software in Indigenous and remote populations, and it will support WACHS in delivering improved antenatal and child care, chronic disease management, and population health," said Telstra Health general manager for Communicare, Greg Robinson.
"It will also provide access to insights and facilitate population health reporting and analysis to paint a more complete picture of community healthcare delivery and future needs in country Western Australia."
Telstra Health was also contracted by the Commonwealth Department of Health last May to construct and run the Australian National Cancer Screening Register for five years, with the database to maintain patient records for cancer testing across the country.
Under that 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 last year.
"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.
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 -- which was then branded a "huge invasion of privacy" by the Privacy Foundation.
In August last year, the federal government claimed to have signed up over 4 million users for My Health Record.