Two-year plan to build traction for e-Health

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Two-year plan to build traction for e-Health

Industry could help shape objectives.

The Federal Government's commitment of $466.7m to a national e-Health records system could be only a small part of its overall e-Health spend, analysts say.

Announced last night, the funding will be delivered over two years to establish an opt-in, nationally consistent patient health record system by 2012-2013.

But according to IT consultancy Ovum, $466.7m is either too little or too much to be effective, and the industry is "confused" about what the system will achieve.

"If this amount of money is focussed on clear deliverables, then it could be the right amount," said research director Kevin Noonan.

"But in order to get a proper, long-lasting solution, there probably is more money required ... The overall budget is likely to be significantly more than that - it could be three times that amount."

Deloitte partner Adam Powick agreed that the two-year commitment was only the beginning of what could add up to a decade-long, two billion dollar scheme.

He welcomed the funding as a "big step" towards broader e-Health goals, and sufficient encouragement to stave off a "brain drain" of e-Health experts who may otherwise look overseas.

"I think we're embarking on a five to ten year journey," he told iTnews. "[$466.7m] is sufficient to enable meaningful traction."

"Clearly it's only part of the funding story, and I think the challenge now is to ensure that we do achieve meaningful outcomes that demonstrate tangible benefits of e-Health."

Powick expected more details of the Government's e-Health objectives to emerge in the coming months, calling for an incremental, inclusive approach that took industry input into consideration.

"The [ICT] sector has to come together as an industry more cohesively to tackle key issues in e-Health," he said, highlighting Individual Healthcare Identifiers, the development of standards, and a scalable implementation approach as areas for discussion.

Meanwhile, Noonan recommended the two-year project focus on integrating existing data into the nationwide database and building public trust in the system, which has been plagued with privacy concerns so far.

He agreed with Budget 2010 papers which described an initial focus on "people who have the most contract with the health and hospital system", including those with chronic health conditions, older Australians, mothers and their newborn children.

"I think it's a very sensible way to start," he said. "It could deliver some real value and also prove the [e-Health] concept, but it would be a mistake for hopes to be set too high and then to be dashed."

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