The Federal Government's $466.7 million e-health records scheme will shortly start to surface in patients’ lives in the real world, with Health Minister Nicola Roxon announcing three trial general practitioner networks that will start to implement the technology.
Labor allocated the money in the last Federal Budget after years of the health industry and technology experts calling for development and national leadership in e-health and health identifier technology to better tie together patients' records and achieve clinical outcomes.
The Opposition, however, has pledged to cancel the scheme.
"This is an important step forward in allowing online access to health records for each Australian that chooses to," said Roxon in a statement, noting the networks were chosen because they already have strong e-health capability within their communities.
The GP networks will also use health care identifiers for the patients — the health identifier database was recently created by the Government — and will electronically send discharge summaries and referrals using national specifications.
The two-year trial project will cost up to $12.5 million in total. And the NSW and Queensland State Governments will also kick in $1.2 million each to help the project.
The news comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard ramps up Labor's focus on electronic service delivery, announcing that Medicare rebates would be provided for online consultations across a range of specialities — and describing Labor's National Broadband Network as core to the vision.
Much of the details around how Labor's $466.7 million in funding will be used, however, remain scant.
In June, Roxon said the easiest way to think of the project was similar to how bank customers accessed their account online. It would be “at least two years” before patients would be able to use the system to access their information, the minister said at the time.
Long-time e-Health pundit and industry veteran David More this week wrote on his blog that it was positive that e-health was a bit more "top of mind" in the Federal Election than it had been in the past — but he noted the community was still "in the dark" about much of Labor's actual e-health plan.
In May, CIO of St Vincent’s & Mater Health, Sydney, David Roffe, said health industry CIOs have a real opportunity to drive innovation and break down silos of information.