NEHTA proposes e-health standards stopgap

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NEHTA proposes e-health standards stopgap

'Tiger teams' look to November deadline

The Federal Government's lead e-health transition body has proposed a new standards strategy that would speed up development of specifications underpinning the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR).

It would replace the current, seven-stage standards development process undertaken with Standards Australia, with a view to establishing specifications by the end of November.

In a standards and specifications document released Friday, the National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) said the current development process was comprehensive but slow and resulted in "considerable re-work and re-education being performed during the Working Draft Stage".

"This would make it difficult to manage variance between final NEHTA specifications implemented into lead sites and further specification and standards development," it said.

The transition authority instead lobbied the Department of Health and Ageing and Standards Australia for a speedier process that would eliminate many of the back-and-forth reviews required for a workable specification.

Under the proposed plan, NEHTA would instead establish "tiger teams" - small groups made up of industry representatives - to "jump start" the specification development process.

The groups would include representatives from industry, three of four PCEHR consortia, lead implementation sites and members of Standards Australia's IT-014 e-health standards committee.

A total of 49 standards required development or re-working for the e-health record, down from the 145 recommended by an independent analysis submitted to NEHTA in July.

NEHTA said it could launch many of the specifications required for the e-health record by the end of November.

However, the specifications would only be considered drafts and ready for trial use in the initial implementation of the e-health record at lead sites and limited demographics next year..

They would not become fully ratified standards without the approval of Standards Australia, which NEHTA conceded would not be made available until after the July 2012 deadline.

One standard, governing advanced care directives in healthcare, was not targeted for public availability until 2013.

Industry sources said proper process meant the standards in question could be a further two years from ratification.

The new proposal followed several setbacks in the standards development process. They included the halting of all work on e-health standards by Standards Australia after the Department of Health cut funding in August.

An agreement was reached in September, though coincided with a restructure at NEHTA which led to the redundancy of key standards manager, Tina Connell-Clark.

NEHTA's proposal remained subject to approval by both Standards Australia and the Department of Health though both bodies had already contributed suggestions to the proposal document released on Friday.

Spokesmen for NEHTA and the department were unavailable for comment at time of writing.

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