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Budget Backs e-Health Records

Funding for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) continued in this year’s Budget and will play a pivotal role in delivering on the Government’s Mental Health agenda. Slated for introduction in July 2012, the PCEHR will radically alter how we view medical records.

Prior to the Budget’s announcement, Jane Halton, Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing, reiterated her commitment to e-Health and the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).

The 2010/11 Budget saw the Government provide $466.7 million over two years to create a PCEHR for every Australian who wants one. As promised, funding remained unchanged in this year’s Budget, and the PCEHR moves closer. The system is intended to provide:

  • summaries of patients’ health information;
  • secure access for patients and healthcare providers to their e-Health records; and
  • rigorous governance and oversight to maintain privacy.

Questions and Outcomes

Ms Halton recognised that the Department’s timelines to begin implementation on 1 July 2012 were tight, and she called on industry to get behind the initiative. She outlined that while there was still a piece of legislation to be passed, the PCEHR remained the Department’s and Heath Minister’s top IT priority.

In her Post Budget Address, Minister Roxon said that the PCEHR will “connect the disparate parts of our health system (which is) especially important in delivering reforms in mental health.” She also stated that the PCEHR will improve the integration in rural and region health leading to better health outcomes for those Australians in harder to reach parts of the country.

The PCEHR offers clear benefits for patients, especially those with chronic health conditions. However, patient security and privacy need to be addressed, and there are many other issues for industry to consider, for example:

  • What does the initiative mean for pharmaceutical, device and biotech companies?
  • How involved can industry become while still remaining within the code of conduct?
  • Can the PCEHR complement industry efforts in promoting QUM?
  • How can the record be used as part of post-marketing surveillance?
  • Could data become available for use in research, planning and policy development?
  • What about data privacy, data security, and crisis management?

As a society, we have embraced communication technology. The challenge for industry will be to link it with health technology and positive business outcomes.

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