I know governments are usually taken to task for overspending their budgets, but the Federal Department of Health is getting a reputation for underspending when it comes to e-health. The Australian reports that the DoH spent only $42.5 million out of the $53.8 million allocated for e-health implementation in 2007-08. This follows on from the previous year, when the Department spent only $37.5 million from a budget of $79 million allocated to national products, including the failed HealthConnect.
Exactly what did it spend money on? According to the report, the department saw success in the development with the National E-health Transition Authority (NEHTA) of individual and provider identifiers, standardised clinical terminologies and secure messaging standards.
“In addition, the department worked closely with NEHTA on the development of targeted packages to support the implementation of electronic discharge, specialist referral and pathology clinical services,” it says.
“The department also contributed to the development of the National E-Health Strategy through the national e-Health Information Principal committee. When the strategy is implemented, it will allow significantly greater inter-jurisdictional and national co-ordination of e-health policy direction.”
The report says a major achievement was an e-prescribing trial in the Northern Territory, in a community pharmacy and aged care setting, resulting in fewer misplaced prescriptions and delays in mailing or faxing scripts.
However, as The Australian points out, “industry observers have noted that the trial involved a limited, point-to-point transmission service, rather than a scalable interchange system needed for a robust national e-prescribing system.”
What we really need to know is, what was that $11 million supposed to be spent on? What is being unnecessarily delayed because of government disorganisation and apathy? How much longer has the promised e-health nirvana been pushed back?