Govt leadership key to e-health success

The committee found that while the NBN will improve e-health implementation, a national leadership strategy is needed to implement initiatives across the entire sector

Increased government leadership is needed to successfully implement e-health initiatives across the entire healthcare sector, as opposed to individual providers, a House of Representatives committee has found.

In its report into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network (NBN), the infrastructure and communications committee found that while the NBN will play a significant role in improving the implementation of e-health systems, challenges remain in gaining wider change.

The report cites comments made by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development that the key reason behind e-health implementation delays is the benefits reaching society as a whole, as opposed to immediate positive consequences for the commercial aspects of healthcare.

“The Committee agrees with the observation of the Broadband Commission [for Digital Development] that 'leadership is needed to develop a trans-sectoral approach to these problems, so that the multiplier effects that broadband infrastructure has to offer are fully explored',” the report reads.

“While estimates of the savings to be gained from using coherent e-health systems range from 15 to 25 per cent, the health system involves a substantial number of unique providers of services, each with their own business models and proprietary administrative systems.

"This makes system-wide change very difficult.”

The committee also cited a submission by the Telehealth Society, which claims the “slow uptake of e-health technologies over the last few decades has shown that such paradigm shifts are very difficult to implement in the health system”.

According to the report, a national strategy would “facilitate and encourage” the changes to healthcare delivery that would justify the NBN and its ability to deliver healthcare services.

“The Committee was made aware of the difficulties of effecting change in a health system that involves so many unique organisations and systems,” the report reads.

“Key challenges to e-health implementation include privacy and the low uptake of technology by specialists... Government leadership on these and other issues will determine the extent to which the benefits offered by the NBN are realised.”

As reported by <i>Computerworld Australia</i>, the report also highlighted the need for further initiatives to drive demand for services delivered by the NBN.

The committee found that while the network will enable infrastructure for a range of social and economic benefits in a range of industry verticals, in order to maximise the NBN more is required on the “demand” side.

“Related to this, inquiry participants told the Committee that an overarching strategy is needed to outline the government’s goals for how the NBN will be used and how those goals can be delivered through demand side interventions,” the report reads.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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