In the last few weeks I have been wondering just where NEHTA, as a company limited by Guarantee, really fits into the picture.
As far as I can tell there is no Government Act or regulation which enables NEHTA activity in the sense that other regulators – for example the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) – undertakes.
A search for NEHTA at the Australasian Legal Information Institute - A joint facility of UTS and UNSW Faculties of Law reveals no legislation at all.
The only mentions found in the zillions of databases refer to Australian Law Reform Commission reports on privacy and the like.
On the other hand a search for the TGA immediately finds the Therapeutic Good Act (1989) and all the associated material.
There are hundreds of citations and cases where the TGA has used it powers to enforce its decisions.
We also know that NEHTA needed to work with the Commonwealth Health Department of Health to get the Draft Legislation for the HI Service going – tells me they have no powers in that regard either.
Additionally, I am told that internally within NEHTA it is well recognised that while NEHTA has funding via the COAG process its actual regulatory and enforcement powers, when push comes to shove, are non-existent except in the commercial domain where they could influence some jurisdictional purchasing decisions.
I will note that as we saw with the recent SA Health Tender it is not clear just what even influence they had in framing and specifying what was needed.
My feeling is that while it may be pragmatic to ‘play ball’ with them whenever possible, where there are commercial or reputational issues at stake taking some advice on just exactly where one stands and discovering what is bluster and what is real authority, may be pretty smart. I suspect they are a ‘paper tiger’!
Well considered and relevant projects should not be blocked or slowed down just because of an almost certainly impotent regulatory fiat! The time has come for NEHTA to transform into something that is of value to the e-Health task in Australia or just get out of the way.