In her presentation at the Health Informatics Conference this week, Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek made some significant announcements in regard to the future of eHealth in Australia.
Minister Plibersek’s announcements included:
- The total number of users currently on the system was 520,000, with nearly 5000 GP practices, hospitals, and other healthcare organisations already signed up.
- Over 16 million patient healthcare documents had been uploaded to the system.
- An $8 million investment into the existing $628 million system to enable pathology results and diagnostic imaging reports to be stored on eHealth records.
- An additional $10 million investment to allow advance care plans to be added to the PCEHR.
Below are the key excerpts from Minister Plibersek’s presentation:
On the compelling case for eHealth
“I know that this audience requires little convincing of the case for eHealth. But when we talk so often about the minutiae of the system it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the big picture. We can forget the difference eHealth is making, and will make, for patients, and for our health system.
For patients, eHealth means their medical history travels with them. It means fewer medication errors, and duplication of tests. It means better, more accurate treatment in an emergency. Put simply, eHealth could save your life.
By way of example, the story I often use is one of an elderly man who collapsed in a shopping centre. He collapsed from a perfectly preventable interaction between medicines. The incident occurred after the man’s GP, and his specialist, changed his medication independently of each other — without knowing what the other had done. eHealth is making stories like that a thing of the past.
eHealth is also a revolution in patient access to their own medical information. Information that empowers patients to make more informed decisions about their own healthcare.
And the benefits of eHealth for our health system are just as clear. Every year, eHealth will help to stop around 15,000 unnecessary hospital admissions, by reducing avoidable medication related problems. That will make even more room for extra doctors, nurses, beds, the latest medicines, and more life changing medical research.”
On building Australia’s eHealth superhighway
“In the proud tradition of true nation building, this Government has been busy constructing the eHealth infrastructure Australia needs to secure a bright future. No good building, no good system can exist without a strong foundation. And that’s where we started with eHealth.
This Government has built Australia’s eHealth superhighway. We’ve invested more than $160 million in general practices to upgrade their computer systems for eHealth. We’ve built the Healthcare Identifier service that has created more than 22 million digital eHealth passports – identifying every Australian for healthcare purposes. And we’ve built the $467 million national eHealth records system, which has the potential to connect every single Australian to every single doctor in the nation.
A patient’s eHealth record on our national system can now hold:
- A summary of the patient’s important medical history
- A list of medications prescribed and dispensed
- Allergy information
- Childhood immunisation records
- Child health and development information
- Hospital discharge reports
- Organ donor status
- Advanced care planning details
- Summaries of individual patient health events
- Medicare and PBS claims data
- Private notes patients make about their own health
And in June, we launched the first smartphone app to link to the national eHealth records system – the child eHealth app. The app allows parents to keep their children’s important health, growth and development information at their fingertips ,and there’s been more than 5000 downloads already.
Hospitals have also started uploading discharge summaries to patient eHealth records, with nearly every state and territory to be on board by the end of the year.
Importantly, the Government has also paid for upgrades to the medical software doctors already use in their clinics. The software upgrades have been designed to make it as easy as possible for doctors to use the national eHealth system; In many cases being able to add information to a patient’s eHealth record at the click of a button.
We’ve built the eHealth superhighway, and I’m proud to say we’ve had a lot of drivers join it already.
The Government set a goal to have about half a million patients on the national eHealth records system by the middle of this year. Not only did we meet this goal, we’ve exceeded it. There are now around 520,000 patients on board. There are nearly 5,000 GP practices, hospitals, and other healthcare organisations signed up too, covering all the nurses, doctors and other health professionals in those organisations. And more than 16 million healthcare documents have been uploaded to patient eHealth records.
We’ve put strong foundations in place, but there is more to do to unleash the full potential of eHealth for patients.”
On unleashing the full potential of eHealth for patients
“The future of eHealth is incredibly exciting. I recently announced $10 million to allow advance care plans to be put on the national eHealth records system; another important feature to help patients with end of life planning.
Now the Government’s established the eHealth infrastructure, we’re starting to see some impressive innovations grow forth from the private sector, developed by experts like you.
I was very pleased to hear that the 2013 HISA app competition has received entries that connect and interact with the national eHealth records system.
This Government sees eHealth as a natural extension of our universal health system, Medicare. Helping every Australian get great healthcare, no matter where they live or how much they earn.
Which is why today I am delighted to announced a landmark next step for our national eHealth records system.
I can reveal the Government is investing $8 million to enable pathology results and diagnostic imaging reports to be stored on a patient’s eHealth record. This will mean things like a patient’s blood tests and x-ray results will be stored securely online, in one place, and can travel with them wherever they go. It will mean patients and doctors will have even more health information available to them at the click of a button. And it paves the way for the diagnostic images themselves, including x-rays and MRI scans to be stored on a patient’s eHealth record. Thanks to work of this Government, that’s now on the horizon.
Stopping investment in eHealth means no eHealth records. It means patients having to repeat their medical history every time they see another doctor. It means unnecessary medication errors and hospital admissions – putting lives at risk.
I am confident that what Australians want is for Australia to be a leader in eHealth, to explore the possibilities of eHealth in conjunction with other modern national infrastructure like the National Broadband Network.
Australians want the convenience of electronic access to their medical history wherever they are. They want control of their health information so they can make better, more informed decisions about their own care.”
Have your say. Please share your views on Minister Plibersek’s announcements in the comments section below.