Australian e-health data standards close to completion

The Australian federal government is only weeks away from formalizing data standards for the country’s national electronic health record system.

Putting in place an immediate working model for HealthConnect is critical to meet Health Minister Tony Abbott’s ambitious, 12-month time frame.

InterSystems managing director Denis Tebutt is rolling out a proposed working model for the electronic health record system this week at the Health Informatics Conference in Melbourne.

However, Tebutt said a clinical document architecture including the HL7 (messaging) standard, open EHR (electronic health records) CEN (a European initiative for standards in health care informatics) is still required to share patient data securely.

Dr Ian Reinecke, CEO of National e-Health Transition Authority (NeHTA), has confirmed that HL7 standard and the open EHR architecture is currently under evaluation.

HL7 refers to communications at the application level, which addresses the data about to be exchanged as well as supporting security checks, participant identification exchange mechanism negotiations and data exchange structuring.

Chairman of HL7 Australia, Klaus Veil, said it is not about choosing one standard over another.

However, Veil said the government and private sector have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in systems that support HL7 Version 2.

Since NeHTA was given the job of evaluating standards more than six months ago, Veil said the decision-making process had been frozen and the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) factor is rife.

He said there has been no engagement with existing stakeholders, experts or vendors involved with the Australian Standards body. “We are still waiting to be told the exact rules and guidelines for the EHR system,” Veil said.

However, NeHTA is expected to confirm the standards in coming weeks, Veil said.

Using HL7 as the standard for clinical data is likely as it was supported by the former Minister for Health Michael Wooldridge and endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council in July 2004.

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