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Concerns raised over e-health records for elderly

Concerns raised over e-health records for elderly

NEHTA conceded that the system may not be "senior friendly"

The suitability and accessibility of the Federal Government’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system for the elderly has been brought into question by a Senate committee investigating cyber safety for senior Australians.

The committee voiced concerns to the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) — the body charged with the rollout of the PCEHR — around just how “senior-friendly” and easy to use the system would be for the demographic.

“We are working with the relevant stakeholders to ensure it is a system that will meet their needs and provide them with a level of confidence that their personal information is safe and secure,” NEHTA head of architecture, David Bunker, said.

“I wouldn’t single it out as being elderly friendly. I think we need to accept that there is a range of sophistication, maturity and literacy around the use of technology and the system, to be safe, secure and easy to use, has to allow for that.

“I think the best way to address that is to say in terms on developing education materials, there is support for those things and the nature of that material has to be directed to a varying level of computer literacy.

“So rather than singling out a group, I think it’s more accurate to say there’s a range of educational materials that’s presented in line as you’re doing the operations.”

Bunker also noted the PCEHR complaints process, which is handled by multiple parties, raising the issue of whether the elderly will even bother to navigate the process to make a complaint.

“Individuals who are unhappy with the way their health information has been handled will have the ability to make a complaint to the personally controlled electronic health system operator,” Bunker said. “If they are not satisfied with the response, they may escalate their complaint to a range of regulators including the Australian Information Commissioner and state or territory privacy of health service regulators where relevant.”

However, Bunker did concede that the government in collaboration with states and territories is investigating the development of a single entry point for PCEHR privacy complaints.

“So, the PCEHR operator will then provide the enquiries and complaints mechanism and there is certainly an expectation about the way those things are handled.”

The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) is still yet to allocate the third round of funding for the project four months on from the scheduled date for the allocation.

A spokesperson for DoHA told Computerworld Australia in February, it had finalised the funding with NEHTA, originally scheduled to be allocated last November, for the “final scope” of activities to 30 June 2012.

Despite this delay, the organisation recently reiterated the rollout schedule for the project was on track to go live on 1 July, following months of speculation it would not be ready.

DoHA deputy secretary, Rosemary Huxtable, said the project was in the second release phase which had “been substantially completed” and was scheduled for completion prior to 1 July.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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