Monday, October 26, 2009

Looks Like Any Major e-Health Investment in Australia is Off the Table.

The following great summary of the e-Health Section of Senate Estimates Hearings from last week appeared this morning. What we learn certainly requires being highlighted!

NEHTA on target, says Health secretary

Karen Dearne | October 26, 2009

THE nation's top health bureaucrat Jane Halton has ruled out major investment from government in e-health systems "to have everything happen instantly".

Pressure has been growing within the e-health community as a growing pile of reports warn of the cost of inaction, following the Council of Australian Government’s acceptance of a National E-Health Strategy last December.

The strategy put the cost of establishing a nationwide electronic health record system at around $1.6 billion over four years.

Queensland Liberal Senator Sue Boyce was seeking information on progress of various National e-Health Transition Authority outcomes previously promised for delivery by December this year, including specifications for secure messaging, clinical terminologies, electronic referrals and e-prescribing.

Earlier this month, NEHTA released its own strategic plan, positioning itself as an implementation agency as adoption of e-health accelerates.

"The e-health community is feeling a little irritated by what they see as a lack of progress in this area," Senator Boyce said. "The view has been put to me that NEHTA was established in 2004 and their budget has been more than $200 million."

Responding to questions at an estimates hearing this week, the federal Health Department secretary said the bottom line was that "we are trying to build a national system that will enable private investment and private engagement".

Ms Halton said all of the work on NEHTA's delivery schedule was on target "and is as good as you will get around the globe. Genuinely I think that. Okay, they might want several billion dollars more. That is fine as an ambition. But in terms of taking relevant, logical, ordered steps towards this e-world, I think actually we are not doing too badly".

Ms Halton said NEHTA's job was to ensure that there were not six or eight railway gauges in this country in respect of e-health.

"None of us wants a world where what we have stored in terms of our medical records is controlled by a proprietary product in a doctor's surgery or something else," she said. "We want interoperability and the ability to say, 'Are you Senator Boyce?' such that no-one can steal your identity or misconnect a record about you.

"This is not just about security, and security is absolutely fundamental. It is also about ensuring that there are not islands of information over here that somebody owns and islands over here that somebody owns, and any notion of basically connecting those two up - which would be in your interests medically - is either controlled and charged for privately by somebody or is just not able to happen."

Lots more here:

http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,26259868-15306,00.html

This is a must read summary. For the full transcript of the hearing my earlier post provides a direct link.

See here:

http://aushealthit.blogspot.com/2009/10/spin-alert.html

All one can now think is that we have the situation where NEHTA is building one of those ‘highways to nowhere’ so beloved of the US and Japanese porkbarrelers.

Looks like the target NEHTA was aiming for has just been taken down and carted away!

If there is no plan to invest in the systems that will use what NEHTA is building in the relatively near-term future then why bother? There is a real risk it will all be an outdated white elephant by the time anyone get round to adoption at this rate!

It is good Ms Halton thinks we are doing ‘not too badly’. She is actually ‘not doing too badly’ at doing essentially nothing and attempting to pass it off as activity.

We are hardly likely to see much investment from the private sector with this being what Government is planning, so I think her strategy to attract funds is doomed from the start!

Just hopeless!

David.

Postscript:

There is more commentary that I have just found here:

NEHTA unsure of own success

By Suzanne Tindal, ZDNet.com.au
26 October 2009 12:34 PM

The National E-health Transition Authority (NEHTA) was unable to measure how many organisations were using the products it was creating, according to a secretary for the Department of Health and Aging.

Much, much more here:

http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/software/soa/NEHTA-unsure-of-own-success/0,130061733,339299215,00.htm?omnRef=1337

I find what Ms Halton said here just plainly offensive. To quote:

“When Boyce raised community concerns that e-health was not progressing, Halton said that people needed to "calm down a bit about this".”

She clearly does not care about the lives e-Health, when implemented, can save.

D.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, another way of summarizing the situation is this - we have had 10 years or more of bullshit, numerous investigations, consultations and reports involving hundreds of people including bureaucrats and consultants by the truckload passing through the revolving door after being paid unseemly sums; plus many genuine, competent experts volunteering their valuable time and expertise for no return; plenty of noise and failed projects like Better Medication Management System, MediConnect, HealthConnect, and goodness know how many random 'ill conceived DOHA funded pilot projects' in every State; and finally NEHTA, feverishly gasping for oxygen whilst desperately hoping for another funding lifeline to nowhere. The end result of all this is a cumulative expenditure of perhaps $800 to 1,000 million dollars, perhaps considerably more, and zilch to show for it.

The most powerful observation anyone can make about all this is that for most of the time Teflon Jane has been the Departmental Secretary reining supreme over this extraordinary unbelievable incompetence and wastage of public funds.

Anonymous said...

Also worth noting that Jane Halton is a NEHTA board member - she is part of that whole process as well

Anonymous said...

As a Terminator she makes Schwarzenegger look like a pussy cat. In effect she has neatly sidestepped funding issues and done a big dump on the States; basically its their problem now. So much for the 50/50 (State/Federal) NEHTA funding partnership. It was never going to work, it hasn't worked and it won't work - blind Freddy could have seen that.

Reading her comments at Senate estimates it is obvious she has also made it NEHTA's problem too - The Department doesn't have access to 'that information' so we have to rely on NEHTA even if they don't have it either. It's a bit like one of those Dickensian cartoons with everyone sitting round the table breathing in the laughing gas. It's hilariously funny and from the bureaucrats perspective it means that somewhere, sometime, we will start all over again which will keep the bureaucrats employed doing what they do best for another decade or more. Pass the gas please.