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Health Strategist Warns of Challenges Ahead

Health Strategist Warns of Challenges Ahead

A British health expert is warning the Australian government both countries will face fresh challenges on e-health in the near future

It's been hard enough to get IT right within the British National Health System (NHS) to date, but a British health expert is warning the Australian government both countries will face fresh challenges on e-health in the near future.

Deputy Managing Director of BT Health Sir Jonathan Michaels, in Australia last month to pass on some key lessons to the Federal Government on e-health strategy, says health systems in both the UK and Britain are continuing to evolve, adding to the challenges of IT specialists.

We can already see that movement happening with Microsoft Health Vault and Google getting into the market to explore these opportunities

Sir Jonathan Michaels

At the same time, a new breed of more sophisticated and knowledgeable consumers are starting to demand Web 2.0-type delivery of e-health services.

Sir Jonathan, visiting Australia at a time when e-health is being viewed as a vital part of health-care strategy and when Commonwealth and State governments are in discussions about the future of health-care delivery, concedes the NHS Programme for IT, of which BT is a major supplier, has received a lot of negative publicity. (The program, designed to provide the infrastructure for electronic prescribing, booking appointments and elective surgery, and a national care records service, has been attacked over delays and overspends, and by doctors claiming patients' data is insecure)

However, he says the system is beginning to turn the corner and generate real successes and opportunities for patients and for clinicians.

"Although it's been difficult, it's been working well," he says.

But he says the effort has been complicated by the fact that the health-care system within the NHS has evolved from 2003 to 2008, and will continue to be complicated by new demands and expectations from health consumers.

"One of the things that we at BT have been doing is looking at where we've think the health-care IT market is going," Sir Jonathan says. "We recognize absolutely that we are going to move from the current position where we are really talking around integrating individual components or institutional-based databases. . . linking and integrating islands of data. . . to something which will (involve) much more Web 2.0 based systems that are much more consumer focused.

"We can already see that movement happening with Microsoft Health Vault and Google getting into the market to explore these opportunities."

Google last month announced plans to test a new online medical record service with a hospital group in Cleveland allowing patients to control who gets to see their health information. The two organizations hope the trial will lead to the creation of a national system for sharing electronic medical records.

The Cleveland Clinic already operates its own electronic personal health record system, eCleveland Clinic MyChart, holding the records of 100,000 patients. Up to 10 percent will be invited to take part in the trial with Google.

Sir Jonathan says he believes this is the beginning of a trend which will undoubtedly continue to accelerate.

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