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Review launched into e-health record scheme

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The Abbott Government has ordered a review of the troubled shared electronic health record program amid concerns about poor take-up, cost overruns and implementation problems.

Health Minister Peter Dutton has ordered the review – the details of which are yet to be released – citing concerns that the Commonwealth so far has little to show for its $1 billion investment in the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record scheme.

“We all support an electronic health record,” a spokeswoman for Mr Dutton told The Australian late last month. “However, we have grave concerns about the amount of money the previous Government spent on e-health for very little outcome to date.

“At a cost of around $1 billion, we should have a lot more to show for it.”

While more than 650,000 people have registered for a e-health record, the number of shared health summaries that have been created remains small, with many doctors and practices still putting technical and administrative processes in place, and ongoing concerns about the remuneration for practitioners who create shared health summaries.

The implementation of the PCEHR was also rocked in August when several clinical advisers to the National E-health Transition Authority (NEHTA), including former AMA President Mukesh Haikerwal, quit their positions, reportedly because of the repeated failure of the Authority to take clinician concerns into account in designing and rolling out the e-health record system.

The AMA has backed the idea of a national electronic health record system, but has raised concerns about the design and implementation of the PCEHR, including a lack of coordination with and support for doctors and practices in installing and operating appropriate software and administrative arrangements, as well as adequate compensation for practitioners for the time taken to prepare and maintain patient e-health records.

AMA President Dr Hambleton has repeatedly called for the appointment of a clinical advisory group to guide implementation of the PCEHR and make it much more clinically useful.

Adrian Rollins