Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If E-Health Will Change Your Vote The Choice Just Got Easier – But Only Slightly!

The following appeared today.

Coalition vows to postpone e-health spending until the budget is back in surplus

AN Abbott government will defer spending on electronic health records until the budget is back in surplus.

"We are certainly committed to e-health; we think it will lead to many improvements in patient safety," opposition e-health spokesman Andrew Southcott said.

"But $5 billion has been spent on e-health over the past 10 years and the experience is that a lot of money can be wasted."

In fact, as health minister in the Howard government, Tony Abbott presided over much of this expenditure. In 2005, Mr Abbott pulled the plug on the Coalition's former HealthConnect sharable e-health records program, and created the National E-Health Transition Authority, which has been spending about $165,000 a day ever since.

While the Coalition has vowed to scrap Labor's $467 million personally controlled e-health record program as a saving measure, "that's not to say individual records can't be revisited" when a budget surplus was achieved, Dr Southcott said.

"In government, the important (e-health) priority will be the successful introduction of healthcare identifiers," he said. "Funding has already been set aside for that through the Council of Australian Governments."

All the reported reaction is here:


If ever there was a plan you have when you don’t have a plan this is it. As for the plan to go ahead with the Health Identifier Service, when a good deal of the reason for creating the service was to enable reliable clinical information exchange, this seems to be having a bit of a ‘bob each way’.

Similarly there is no comment on just what a Coalition Government would do about NEHTA and what aspects would proceed and what may not.

I guess it all boils down to whether you believe Labor will deliver something useful with its 2 year $467M plan, and you believe you understand just what will be delivered and why, or you think a great deal more clarity is required from both sides – a point made by Dr Fernando further on in the article.

I have to say I am still in the latter camp – but I guess one has to say something is better than nothing and that seems to really be what the Coalition is offering.

I also have to say I think Labor is guilty of what I call ‘magical thinking’ if they believe the money they plan to spend will make any real difference without a major reform of leadership and governance in the area.

Despite the new information I still somehow think other matters should determine your vote – but if e-Health is it, Labor by a whisker and with some prayer!



Anonymous said...

Guess it depends whether you think $$ hastens or slows progress. The last 5 years points to the latter in oz.

Anonymous said...

There are two questions in regard to this:

1. Have we been getting value for the $160,000 a day spent over the last 5 years, and the billion or so in the 5 years before that.

2. Has Nehta advanced eHealth in Australia or been a negative influence.

On 1 there is no evidence of any value for money. We could have bought a SNOMED license and contracted NCCH to localise it and develop a AMT that actually worked - And we would be just as far ahead for a fraction of the cost.

On 2 there is good evidence that the market has been in a state of paralysis, unwilling to invest in implementation because of the wacky statements coming out of Nehta. Apart from the heavily vendor modified SMD standard we have nothing of any value out of all the Nehta work over the last 5 years. Patient identifiers have a telephone interface only at the moment. Provider and organization identifiers, NASH and content specifications are vapourware.

Government $$ can distort the market in negative ways when applied in naive ways and this is what Nehta have done.

We would be further ahead without them, there is little doubt about that.

Anonymous said...

Money is necessary, but not sufficient for success. No $ means no progress, thats fairly absolute.

But we also need competent and expert people running the show, and it is this latter area - leadership, governance, transparency, expertise - that has let us down so badly over the last 10 years, with governments now of both persuasions.

I am happy that at least one party sees e-health action now as essential. I am perplexed why, when billions are being sloshed around, the coalition cant just maintain the half billion commitment already made. With respect to national budgets, $240 million per annum for 2 year is small beans.

What I also want to hear from BOTH parties is how they would change the current state of affairs in leadership (think DOHA bureaucracy, NEHTA) to improve our chances of success.