Victoria kicks off $80m eHealth spending spree

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Victoria kicks off $80m eHealth spending spree

Millions allocated in 2012 finally make it to hospitals.

One month out from a state election, the Victorian government has finally emptied the $100 million eHealth piggy bank it set up in 2012, and distributed the funds to hospitals and health services.

Health Minister David Davis this morning announced the winners of the first lot of funds from the $100 million pool, announcing $80 million worth of grants would be drawn from the state’s Innovation, eHealth and Communications Technology Fund.

Davis denied to iTnews that his government had been sitting on the funds in the lead up to a hard-fought election campaign.

He said it had been “steadily and methodically” working on a response to a series of reviews into the state's past health struggles, in order to put together a statewide IT framework, which he released today.

“This money has been allocated in light of that strategy,” he said, hinting that today’s allocation would not be the last ehealth funding announcement to be made before the election.

Monash Health emerged as a big winner in the funding round, being given $40 million to start its implementation of integrated electronic medical records and an electronic medications management system.

Other recipients include:

  • Alfred Health - operator of the Alfred, Caulfield and Sandringham hospitals - which will receive $7.1 million towards the replacement of its 20 year-old patient administration system;
  • Gippsland Health Alliance, which will receive $5.6 million for medication management and clinical documentation systems across the district’s four largest hospitals;
  • Grampians Health Alliance, which will receive $4.3 million for shared electronic medical records and a health information exchange across Grampians district hospitals to manage demand; and
  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, which will receive just under half a million dollars to pilot the use of IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence tool to support clinical decision making, in partnership with two leading US cancer centres – Memorial Sloane Kettering and MD Anderson.

Speaking at the Alfred Hospital this morning, Davis stressed that his government understood the need for good ICT in healthcare.

“We understand the need to move our system from paper-based services to an electronic system - not least because it will ultimately be necessary to retain good clinical staff. In the long haul, doctors won’t work with antiquated systems,” he said.

The Napthine government is working hard to distance itself from the aborted $363 million HealthSMART project, which Davis officially “put to bed” last year.

Dubbed the “Myki of health” by the Minister, the 2003 scheme aimed to mandate a common software footprint across the entirety of Victoria’s devolved sector, a demand that the government has now reversed.

The $80 million announced today will give hospitals and health services a leg up in terms of meeting a “minimum baseline capability” of IT – the key demand under today’s Statewide Health ICT Strategic Framework.

The specifics of the baseline capability are yet to be agreed to between the state Department of Health and the arms-length health districts that operate Victoria’s health facilities, but suggested requirements include a universal ability to send discharge summaries electronically; universal use of common identifiers; and other hardware and software foundations.

From this baseline, health services will work towards more aspirational goals along a ten year timeline, such as sector-wide continuity of care, inter-hospital information sharing and universal capability for closed-loop medication management.

Another item on the wish list is a secure and privacy-friendly approach to leveraging consumer generated health data generated through fitness devices and smartphones for research ends.

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