FEDERAL BUDGET 2010: IT sector to win from $466.7 million e-Health initiative

The IT sector is set to receive a boost from the Government with the introduction of a new electronic health records scheme, designed so patients and health providers can check medical histories online.

The industry has called for the introduction of an electronic health record scheme for years, with several businesses saying the Government could reduce waste and expenditure by rolling out such a project.

The Government has set aside $466.7 million over the next two years for the scheme, which it claims will improve patient safety and help cut waste and duplication within the health system.

The new electronic health record scheme will provide summaries of patients’ health information, including medications and test results, secure access for patients and health care providers to their own records and a strong amount of protection to maintain privacy.

Health minister Nicola Roxon said in a statement the project will allow health providers to access the same set of records for the same patient, regardless of their location.

“Patients for the first time will be empowered with easy-to-access information about their medical history… allowing them to make informed choices about their healthcare.”

“They will be able to present for treatment anywhere in the country, and give permission for health professionals to access their relevant history at the touch of a button.”

Roxon also said the Government will put in place stringent controls for the scheme to ensure records are not tampered with.

The benefits of such a scheme, she said, will see fewer patients diagnosed to hospital beds due to linked medication errors. Currently about 2-3% of admissions in Australia are due to these errors, which costs the health system about $660 million each year, while 8% of medical errors are caused by inadequate patient information.

“Clear, quickly available information will reduce such incidents, avoid unnecessary tests and save scarce health resources,” she said.

Patients will be provided with a 16-digit PIN in order to access personal records. Implementation will begin by targeting certain groups which will benefit the most from such a scheme, specifically the elderly and those suffering from chronic and rare diseases.

The electronic records scheme is just one of several health benefits announced in the Budget, with others including:

  • The health reform initiatives announced earlier this year which will see the Government fund up to 60% of all public hospital costs.
  • $355 million in new funding for 23 GP Super Clinics and 425 upgrades.
  • $417 million for after-hours services and the establishment of Medicare Local bureaus.
  • $523 million over the next four years for training nurses, including $390 million to help use current nurses in a more efficient way.
  • A further 300 registered nurse scholarships and 600 enrolled nurse training places.
  • $3.5 billion for public hospitals.
  • $1.2 billion over four years to improve access to GPs.
  • $533 million over five years to improve access to aged care.
  • $104 million for mental health programs for young people.
  • $1.2 billion in the next four years for training more health professionals.

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