NEHTA shrugs off health records patent threat

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NEHTA shrugs off health records patent threat
mouse integrated with stethoscope

Low take-up of health records more concerning.

The body responsible for the Australian Government's electronic health records system has paid little attention to threats made by a US firm claiming that the PCEHR violates its patents.

The chief executive of the National E-Health Transmission Authority (NEHTA), Peter Fleming said he had not contacted the Health Department over the patent claim, hearing about it first via a newspaper article.

US-based MMRGlobal issued a news release last week claiming that NEHTA was infringing on its patents (including Australian patent numbers 2006202057 and 2008202401) and other Intellectual Property (collectively, the "MMRIP") issued to, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of MMRGlobal.

MMRGlobal claimed PCEHR "appeared to incorporate numerous portions" of the MMR intellectual property.

Fleming informed the Senate Estimates Committee that MMRGlobal had never contacted NEHTA and had “nothing solid”.

“We have looked at their patents from an architectural and legal perspective and briefed our lawyers to investigate,” Fleming said. “They are working with NEHTA’s architects at the moment."

NEHTA had developed the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) system after third parties undertook "a very detailed analysis" of the existing standards in place, he said.

MMRGlobal has reportedly issued up to 250 letters a week to accuse users of electronic health records such as hospitals and pharmacies of patent violations.

In late November 2012 ,MMRG had reportedly signed license agreements worth more than $USD30 million, disputing it was a “patent troll”.

Uptake more of a concern

While PCEHR had attracted interest by overseas patent holders, local users remain to be convinced of its merits, judging by the registrations lodged to date.

The system has just 56,761 users to date.

Rosemary Huxtable, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing nonetheless remained steadfast that PCEHR would meet its nationwide 500,000 target by the end of June.

“[It] is still achievable, given that we are now really in the place where we are beginning to see the more comprehensive operation of the PCEHR system, not just registrations but in clinical use,” Huxtable said.

The lack of GP-practice software compliant with PCEHR uploads had been resolved, she said

Now that 98 percent of the general practice software market was compliant with PCEHR, there would be a new growth spurt in registrations, she said.

Her Department had been working with e-Health sites to encourage registration.

“Getting that GP software in place is the time when you can get the real value of the record. This is the time when that push can really begin,” she said.

She disclosed that there were now 1,171 organisations registered to use PCEHR and some 1,325 individual health providers had been given authorisation links to work with these organisations.

Asked why the compliant GP-practice software had not been updated before the launch of PCEHR on 1 July, 2012, Fleming said that "many steps” were required.

“The reality is this is one of the final steps. We are in a good position with the infrastructure in place to take registrations.”

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