Telstra, Cerner named in e-health record rollout

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Telstra, Cerner named in e-health record rollout

Health finds silver lining as subcontractors revealed.

A total of eight parties have been chosen to participate in the infrastructure build for the Federal Government's $466.7 million personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR), with Telstra and e-health partner Cerner among those joining the Accenture-led effort.

iTnews can reveal that consortium winners Accenture, Oracle and Orion Health are to be joined by sub-contractors Telstra, Cerner, ThinkPlace, Extensia and Ocean Informatics in the infrastructure build.

The Department of Health and Ageing had agreed to pay out the $77 million budget for the build, with Accenture receiving the lion's share at $47.8 million. Oracle and Orion Health had also picked up $17.8 million and $11 million, respectively, for the license fees required to use the software underpinning electronic health records.

A further $137.5 million had been allocated to 12 implementation sites around the country, tasked with trialling individual elements of the technology to be used in the record with specific demographics.

The five additional parties revealed today would act as sub-contractors to Accenture, however it was not immediately clear what roles each of the five remaining parties would play.

It is believed Telstra has been drafted to host much of the web portals that would be used by healthcare providers and patients alike to update medical information and manage access to the records.

It would be hosted on the company's infrastructure-as-a-service platform, dubbed 'Silver Lining'.

Accenture had pitched the use of "cloud computing-like services" as part of its tender to the Department of Health but had not committed to using Telstra as a hosting provider at the time.

A dollar amount for the hosting portion of the contract was not disclosed.

Although Accenture had been contracted to develop the records, using a mixture of software from Oracle and other sub-contractors, the records themselves would be held on individual repositories distributed throughout Australia rather than on Telstra's private cloud.

These would be operated by Medicare Australia, public health systems and regional operators deemed to conform to the department's standards. However, the Telstra-provided hosting would likely play home to the National Repositories Service, a centrally located "critical set of healthcare information" providing details on the distributed repositories.

Health minister Nicola Roxon told The Australian that all "infrastructure will be the property of the Commonwealth".

Accenture had an existing relationship with Telstra's cloud division, formed last year to help garner enterprise participation in the telco's quietly developed 'Silver Lining' platform.

Telstra has ramped up efforts to sign government customers onto its infrastructure, offering 45-day free trials of the platform and consulting services from Accenture on how best to migrate data.

Two of the consortium participants, Orion Health and Cerner, had worked extensively with the NSW Government on core e-health programs, including the troubled clinical information system FirstNet and the lapsed Healthelink medical record trials in western Sydney.

In Singapore's shadow

Progress of Australia's e-health record program posed similarities to a recent initiative in Singapore, regarded as at the forefront of national e-health progress.

The core three participants of the consortium chosen by the Federal Government - Accenture, Oracle and Orion - had last year won the $SG176 million ($AU139 million) contract to build Singapore's equivalent of the e-health record for five million residents.

The record, built in participation with Initiate (now owned by IBM) and HP, was launched officially in June as one of the first global examples of a national electronic medical record.

The Accenture-led consortium in Australia will be required to meet similarly tight timeframes, withy the Australian Government demanding the records be open for public registration by July 1, 2012.

Timeframes used internally at the government's lead e-health body, the National E-Health Transition Authority, had suggested trials of the system to begin with 500,000 patients at the implementation sites by April next year, though delays in awarding the infrastructure tender may have since pushed these time frames back.

The first stage of the Singapore e-health record rollout was completed within 10 months of the contract being awarded.

The consortium had gone through a different tendering process in Singapore, however, requiring the shortlisted consortia led by rivals Accenture and IBM to each stand up live instances of their proposed record infrastructure at the supplier's own costs prior to winning the bid.

Deloitte health care partner Adam Powick said there were advantages in following from Singapore's lead.

"I think we've got a much more complex political environment and health sector than Singapore but in terms of the general aims of what we're trying to implement, there are definitely similarities," he told iTnews.

"When you build something there's always an impost the first time you build it, the second time you can typically deliver things faster and more cost effectively."

A final version of the Australian Federal Government's concept of operations of the e-health record was expected for completion this month after a public consultation period.

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