The following appeared a day or so ago on ZDNet.
E-health too unsexy for COAG
Posted by Suzanne Tindal @ 11:25 0 comments
There will always be something more politically sexy than e-health for state governments, meaning the National E-Health Transition Authority's (NEHTA) business case for a national electronic medical record might just sit on the shelf gathering dust forever.
NEHTA has been trying to get approval for its business case since October last year, when it hoped it would go before the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). Although the authority already has funding for its operations, if its business case is passed it will have a lot more to forge forward with an expanded agenda in coordinating e-health solutions across state and federal governments.
But what happened before October? The crisis. So e-health was turned on the back burner while the states considered what to do about the economic hole the world had fallen in. If Australians asked afterwards, they could at least say they did something.
Then there was another COAG meeting in November. NEHTA got funds to keep on doing what it was doing, but again the financial conditions took top billing as examining the business case was put in the too hard basket.
In February? You guessed it. The financial crisis was still top order of the day as the state governments eyed all the money the Federal Government was putting onto the plate and was going to flow into their jurisdictions. Then the fires came. So April's COAG was all about disaster plans.
Lots more here:
While some of what Suzanne writes may be true I think there is a much larger reason that, despite having tried at least three time times over the last year, we have not seen any real outcome.
The reason is that NEHTA does not really understand what e-Health is actually for. The answer is that it is to enable and facilitate safer, more consistent, evidence based and more efficient patient care. It is that simple, and as soon as you grasp just how dangerous, random and inefficient the present system is even the dumbest politician would want lots of it.
When it is properly explained, this is certainly how President Bush and Obama reacted, how Tony Blair reacted as have also the national leaders of virtually all advanced countries with the exception of Australia. (Canada, NZ, Scandinavia and so on are all signed up!). Our pollies are not stupid so it is those putting the rationale for e-Health who are simply not up to it. All the evidence is there, all they have to do is use it!
The bottom line is that e-Health is about patients and consumers NOT about technology. This has just not been explained properly.
The business case to do e-health and save lives and money is quite compelling and more than that can be shown to make a manifest positive difference in study after study and now indeed in the impact on some of the more advanced national implementers and health systems (e.g Kaiser Permanente in the US which has fully automated e-health system which care for the equivalent of over ½ the Australian Population).
That there is a Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is only another reason why we should get on with it as we need the extra lives and dollars to help us recover!
Why does it not happen? It is simply that no one who really grasps this, and the scale of the opportunity is not taken seriously by the political powers that be, because of the way they are going about trying to ‘sell’ it. For anyone (NEHTA included) to be successful the need for and consequences of investment in e-Health need to be articulated in ways the public understand and there needs to created public demand for better, more efficient and safer care.
While-ever we have secret business cases developed by remote mandarins which are given to other mandarins we will get nowhere and neither will the fundamental health reform we all know we need for a sustainable health system.