Health Policy

Australian govt approves sharing of patient eRecords

At a recent meeting in Brisbane, health ministers in Australia have finally agreed on a national plan to share patients’ electronic records, on the same day a new study slammed scattergun spending of almost AUSD 1.3 billion (USD 856 million) on state-based e-health schemes. The ministers gave the tick to the strategy commissioned in April amid controversy over delays, cost blowouts and resignations in e-health projects and bodies across the country. Electronic records for patients are currently held separately, if at all, across GP surgeries, hospitals, government agencies and other health centres, allowing only patchy sharing of information. The gaps have resulted in duplicate consultations, tests and treatments and prescribing mistakes, with past studies calculating the net benefits of better electronic record-keeping at up to AUSD 8.7 billion (USD 5.7 billion) over the first 10 years. The lack of common IT systems and fast broadband has also stalled moves towards more sophisticated innovations, such as remote robotic surgery and electronic monitoring of patients. Yesterday, a Booz and Co consultancy report commissioned by the government’s health reform adviser, the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission, warned that Australia was wasting money and falling behind in the digital health revolution. The Brisbane meeting also finalised the carve-up of an AUSD 750 million (USD 494 million) in emergency department funding announced last month.

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