NT makes first e-health contributions

First lot of funding allocated to territory's Health eTowns project, despite government announcement a year ago

The Northern Territory has allocated $6.6 million toward telehealth services at 17 remote towns in the territory, marking its first financial contribution since the initiative was announced a year ago.

The allocation, announced in the 2011/2012 budget released this week, will form part of a $16.4 million funding package over three years to establish video conferencing sites, telehealth capabilities and e-learning capabilities for students at 17 of 20 towns marked as growth sites by the territory government.

The funding will also help to further establish the territory’s shared e-health record project, which handles records for close to 40,000 indigenous consumers, as well as improvements to fibre optic bandwidth at the earmarked towns.

The initiative forms part of the $60 million Digital Regions Initiative National Partnership Agreement, first announced by communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy in mid-2009.

The Northern Territory e-health project became one of seven recipients of the funding at the beginning of 2010 toward the project under the presumption the territory government would itself contribute some finances as part of the national partnership.

However, the 2011/2012 budget from the territory government this week bears the first mention of the initiative, and the first allocation of funding.

The additional $7 million provided from the Federal Government over four years will lead to total funding of approximately $23.4 million toward the “Health eTowns”.

According to a presentation made last year by Health eTowns program implementation manager, Jackie Plunkett, the program is currently being handled jointly by the territory education, health and business departments as an element of the government’s shared services strategy.

The Northern Territory is also expected to receive a portion of $55 million worth of funding from the Federal Government as part of the second wave e-health implementation sites announced by federal health minister, Nicola Roxon, in March.

The funding will be dedicated toward further development of elements of $467 million personally controlled electronic health record with a focus in the territory on indigenous populations. It is unclear whether the national initiative will look to incorporate elements of the health record already in use for the populations in the area.

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