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NEHTA fails to deliver e-health on time: Boyce

Liberal Senator for Queensland, Sue Boyce, has delivered a scathing criticism of the National e-Health Transition Authority and its work in the roll out of e-health projects

Liberal Senator for Queensland, Sue Boyce, has criticised the National e-Health Transition Authority’s (NEHTA) work in the rollout of e-health projects across the country, claiming it has repeatedly failed to deliver projects on time.

Addressing attendees of the Technology in Health Administration Conference in Sydney, Boyce said NEHTA constantly changed goals, plans and deadlines to ensure that tracking its progress is almost impossible.

“To be blunt I don’t think they’ve done anything much ... except waste a lot of money and a lot of time,” Boyce said.

“NEHTA loves a guiding principle, and a vision and a purpose and a mission it sometimes sounds more like a cult than a builder of anything.”

According to Boyce, NEHTA’s mission to articulate the end-to-end application of e-health solutions in Australian healthcare by incorporating interoperability and integrating technology has failed.

“At every stage, I believe, NEHTA consultations have begun too late in the process. Certainly, not in time to produce the ownership and the efficiencies so necessary to the success of such a complex implementation.”

Boyce notes NEHTA’s latest strategic plan in regards to the National Authentication Service for Health (NASH), in which it defines issues and concepts, plans and definitions but fails to address any sort of project completion detail.

“I’m all in favour of definitions — and standards," she said.

"Without agreed definitions and agreed standards, we cannot measure progress of any sort... But 15 years on and we are still sorting out definitions and standards.

“Naturally, there is concern that this again is nothing more than a figment of NEHTA’S delusion of progress.”

She cites the Federal Government’s allocated funding for NEHTA from 2005-2011, to which global advisory firm Boston Consulting Group in 2007 described as “a solid foundation on a very lean budget”.

“In an ominous warning for the future, the Boston Consulting Group also said that NEHTA had set ‘overly ambitious targets’ and noted that many stakeholders were dissatisfied with the national body because of a ‘cycle of criticism, defensiveness and isolation’,” Boyce said.

In its 2010-11 budget, the Federal Government allocated $466.7 million over a two-year period to develop a Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR), a system which every Australian will be able to “opt in” from July 2012.

Boyce criticised the system, which has been designed so that patients can access and control what information is included in their record as medical practitioners will not be able to trust what is contained in the record.

“A system designed for use by clinical professionals is an utterly different beast to the system that might be designed to help a consumer keep track of their basic health information and the health story,” she said.

“In fact some have argued in the strongest terms that creating a system to be used by consumers and clinicians is just a fundamental nonsense.

“In terms of system design and implementation, any system targeting both groups will satisfy neither.”

The recent release of the Draft Concept of Operations in April left many in the industry asking questions due to a lack of clarity.

The 130-page document maps out the record’s function, possible information and proposed security and privacy settings.

However, Boyce said, despite claims the PCEHR would provide clinical decision support, the concept document states that it will not provide this service.

Additionally, Boyce claims the $29.9 million investment to improve consumer take-up and adoption will be fruitless as there is no evidence of the benefits of a PCEHR.

“Given there are no planned incentives for adoption by health professionals and that many clinical organisations struggle to see much utility in the program… the risk that this whole change and adoption exercise will be a waste of $29.9 million is quite high,” she said.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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More about: BCA, Boston Consulting, Boston Consulting Group, CA Technologies, Federal Government, Technology
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It is rather ironic that NeHTA was created many moons ago on the initial recommendation of the Boston Consulting Group to accelerate apparently slow progress in eHealth.

It is long overdue that NeHTA be reviewed thoroughly by an organisation other than the BCG, since it has a vested interest in NeHTA since birth.

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