Quote Of The Year

Quote Of The Year - Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Its Really Nice to Know You Were Right!

Well the chickens have come home to roost! Even allowing for a fifty percent margin of error E-Health in Australia is only moving forward very slowly and is certainly not progressing with the urgency hoped for by Minister Abbott!

The goal was set in June 2005. A report, from that time, of the Minister’s remarks is as follows:

See http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php?id=1737192765&eid=-6787 for the full article.

E-health put on notice

Health Minister Tony Abbott has put federal health IT bureaucrats on notice saying he expects tangible results within a year, specifically functioning electronic health records and accompanying smartcard system - or heads would start to roll.

"I am sick of trials and studies and working groups," Abbott said.

"I want patients to see a difference in 12 months. If patients do not see a difference, we will have failed," Abbot said, adding he was not prepared to be "held hostage" by a never-ending chase for the latest and greatest IT solutions.

"For too long we have tried to achieve too much. The best is the enemy of the good."

Asked whether he was prepared to force Australia's eight state and territory health systems to adopt federal health IT standards by linking their funding to outcomes stipulated by Canberra, Abbott said that state health ministers were as frustrated as he was with the seeming lack of progress and that there was no need for [force].

He was far less generous to federal IT practitioners.

"Maybe I should make some federal public servants' pay dependent on outcomes," Abbott said.
A spokesman for Abbott insisted the comment was made in jest, but that public servants were still required to deliver within the 12-month window. "Look, it can't go on forever," the spokesperson said.

As for whether the government is considering a "central database", the spokesperson said Abbott meant "you have to put the information somewhere."

And directly from a Speech in August 2005:

E-health is a high priority for the Howard Government. It was the subject of my first scripted speech as health minister. The subsequent 20 months have seen solid progress: the establishment of the National E-Health Transition Authority; the launch of a Medicare smart card in Tasmania; the beginnings of HealthConnect in South Australia; and the substantial completion of many of the trials necessary to enable the widespread effective use of IT in health care.

Think for one moment where these are now? Medicare Smartcard canned, HealthConnect on the deep backburner, and NEHTA now talking of a future taking many years before some real outcomes will be seen.

It seems pretty clear that for all the words – essentially zilch has really happened that has made any difference to the quality and safety of our healthcare system.

A good measure of the actual progress comes from the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) 2005/06 Annual Report (p133) where we learn e-Health initiatives have now impacted on10,444 consumers (of the possible 20 million or so).

The E-health targets that the report cites in the section reviewing last years performance, and which it claims have been met, are classics in goal post transport, reversal and remodelling. Rather than report on HealthConnect, which by no way could be said to really exist, the performance measures now relate to broadband installation and the establishment of NEHTA (which was largely in 2004/05 anyway). (p139).

On the next page we also discover E-Health was one of the reasons for the Government underspend on Health! (A $7+million underspend against a (very tiny) $50 million budget)

NEHTA and the DoHA bureaucrats must be wondering when the Minister will ask why it is being so slow spending the funds it has been given. (Note this excludes the other $130 million provided by COAG in February 2006 to NEHTA)

It can’t be said the Minister wasn’t warned. Witness the my comments, as reported in July 2005, after Minister Abbott said a EHR system would be operational in 12 months.


Academic says HealthConnect will not meet Abbott's timeframe

Michael Crawford 07/07/2005 09:56:10

Health Minister Tony Abbott's ambitious plan to have an electronic health record system operational is highly unlikely to meet a 12 month timeframe according to Dr David More, adjunct professor of Health Informatics at the University of Canberra.

Raising serious doubts about the federal government's ability to meet Abbott's strict schedule, Dr More said the only way the deadline can be met is if doctors get a working client system that is linked to HealthConnect up and running within the next few months.

Dr More, who is a Fellow of the Australian College of Health Informatics, said the government should have committed "real money" to an electronic health record system years ago.

"To have HealthConnect operational, doctors need to have a working and usable client on their desks immediately; this client will need to have advanced clinical decision support and use a fully standards-based infrastructure as well as provide for proper management of privacy and data security," More said.

"The task to develop and implement such a client nationally is just too big to be completed within 12 months. HealthConnect has so far been a seven-year project and look how far it is from that outcome today.

"Our medical system is based on a fee for service per item of service, so the incentive is for a doctor to get as many people through the practice as possible to maximize what he bills," he said, adding that the implementation of new technology will slow doctors down.

"Widespread adoption of a new client system will be slow without major financial incentives to make up for the costs and reduced income."

More also said the Australian medical software industry may not have the skills and expertise available to meet the demands of developing and implementing systems for a national electronic health system without a major injection of funds.

"The government needs to get serious about the amount of money it is prepared to spend in order to get such a system actually working," he said. "To try and duplicate the technology doctors already have would not make sense; they need intelligent, networked systems."

Dr More pointed to the UK's e-health program where the government has committed £10 billion ($23.5 billion) over 10 years.

The US has also committed billions to an electronic health record system over the next few years.

"Essentially we are talking megabucks to implement an advanced electronic system and to do it properly," he said.

In the 2005 Federal budget handed down in May, the government made available $20 million over three years for an electronic health record system.”

Given the article is essentially one large quote of my comments and is 18 months old I hope Computerworld won’t mind if I quote the article in full.

What is unarguable is that, while there have been some small steps forward, (I hear of some good things happening in small pockets all around the country) the lack of a coherent national strategy and reasonable funding ensures – as NEHTA now admits – we are still years away from an implemented and successful national approach.

Right now, it’s a hopeless mess that needs fixing. I hope someone is listening.


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