Australian residents will have electronic health records by 2012.
Australian residents will have electronic health records by 2012.

Electronic health records by 2012

STOOD on a rusty nail? Need to know when you had your last tetanus shot?

From mid-2012 the answer will be a click of the computer mouse away for Coffs Coast residents.

The Rudd government will spend $467 million during the next two years to give every Australian who wants one an electronic health record by July 2012.

“Patients will no longer have to remember every detail of their care history and retell it to every care provider they see,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon said this week.

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

E-health records will list the medication a patient is using, along with their previous test results and immunisations.

Their introduction by 2012 was a key recommendation of the Rudd government’s National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission.

The commission said an e-health record should ‘at all times be owned and controlled by the patient’.

Ms Roxon agrees. She said there’d be ‘rigorous governance and oversight to maintain privacy’.

“Patients will control what is stored and decide which medical professionals can view or add to their files.”

Labor says e-health is fundamental to its health reform agenda and will boost patient safety, improve health outcomes and reduce waste and duplication.

A report released last week found an e-health system could save the Australian health budget $7.6 billion annually by 2020 and prevent 5000 deaths each year.

Ms Roxon says e-health will reduce hospital admissions caused by medication errors and avoid duplication of tests.

Doctors say they’ll be able to send and receive results, x-rays and the like without them getting lost in transit.

But the entire system depends on every patient and healthcare provider having an individual healthcare identifier (IHI).

The identifier is a 16-digit number which will automatically be generated for every Australian to store their name, address and date of birth.

Legislation allowing IHIs to be assigned is before the Senate.

However, with opponents increasingly raising privacy concerns, there’s no guarantee it will be passed anytime soon.

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