eHealth program 'struggling': health minister

13 November, 2013

Australia's personally controlled electronic health records program is "struggling", the federal government recently admitted.

The admission coincided with Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton announcing a review of eHealth program which the government said has failed to attract enough doctors to participate.

"While the previous coalition government laid the foundations for eHealth by getting computers into doctors' practices, Labor comprehensively messed up the next stage and has wasted over a billion dollars in its failed attempt at the second phase — moving to personal electronic health records," he said in a recent statement.

Dutton said a year after the introduction of the electronic health records system only a fraction of Australians have established a record and for those who have, only a few hundred doctors have added a Shared Health Summary.

"This defeats the purpose of having a national, electronic system that is meant to help save lives.

"The government fully supports the concept of electronic health records but it must be fit for purpose and cost effective.

"I am therefore announcing … a review of eHealth records to be chaired by Richard Royle, Executive Director of the UnitingCare Health group in Queensland.

"Mr Royle holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Health Administration degrees, and is an active member of the Executive Team responsible for all of UnitingCare's services in Queensland, including Bluecare and UnitingCare Community, as well as UnitingCare Health.

"In addition, Mr Royle is vice-president of the Australian Private Hospitals Association and he brings more than 30 years' experience in management of public and private health services to the position of Review Chair.

"He is also overseeing the implementation of Australia's first fully integrated digital hospital in a pilot project at Hervey Bay in Queensland."

Dutton said Royle will be assisted in the review by Dr Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association and Andrew Walduck, chief information officer of Australia Post.

"The review team's expertise encompasses information technology, patient and medical services and business administration which I believe is the right mix to put the electronic health records program back on track."

The review panel will invite submissions from the public along with key stakeholder groups including peak clinical bodies, and will report back to Dutton by mid-December 2013 after which the government will consider the recommendations and respond.