The Federal Government has announced it will spend $466.7 million over two years to create a secure e-health record for every Australian that wants one.
People will be able to register for a "personally controlled e-health record from 2012-13", according to the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon.
"With the patient’s permission, key health information may be viewed by their authorised participating healthcare providers across different locations and care settings," according to Budget 2010-11 papers.
The program would focus initially on "people who have the most contract with the health and hospital system".
"These include people with chronic and complex health conditions, older Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and mothers and their newborn children," the report said.
National e-health records would be rolled out in a "staged approach" starting with "a number of lead implementation sites."
"This will allow a careful evaluation of the system," the budget papers said.
The Government will begin its consultation "with states and territories and other key stakeholders" to begin designing the proposed system.
The Government said that $185.6 million would be made available in 2010/11, $281.2 million next fiscal year. Further funding above the $466.7 million already allocated would also be considered by the Government, depending on the status of the rollout.
"Subject to progress in rolling out the core e-health infrastructure, the Government may consider future investments, as necessary, to expand on the range of functions delivered under an electronic health record system," the Department of Health and Ageing said in a statement.
The system could save up to $660 million per year in hospital admissions linked to medication errors caused by lack of availability of patient information.
"Poor availability of health information across care settings... can have damaging effects on a patient’s health outcomes through avoidable adverse drug events and lack of communication between health care providers," the Department said.
"About 2-3 percent of hospital admissions in Australia are linked medication errors. It equates to 190,000 admissions each year and costs the health system $660 million.
"About 8 percent of medical errors are because of inadequate patient information.
"Clear, quickly available information will reduce such incidents, avoid unnecessary tests and save scarce health resources," the Department said.
It was planned that each e-health record would include a "summary view of an individual’s health information", including clinical data such as conditions, treatments, medications, test results, allergies and alerts.
It was not intended to replace or hold all information contained in doctors' or other health providers' records, the budget papers said.
Services giant CSC welcomed the funding announcement.
"It is great to see the Government's commitment to e-health as a fundamental part of our country's health reform," said Lisa Pettigrew, CSC's Director for Health Services.