Next round of e-health funding finalised, three months over schedule

The funding was scheduled for allocation in November

At least three months after it was scheduled to allocate the next round of funding for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) project, the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has confirmed a figure has been finalised.

A spokesperson for DoHA told Computerworld Australia it had finalised the funding with the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), originally scheduled to be allocated last November, for the “final scope” of activities to 30 June 2012.

“The final details of the work package have been completed,” the spokesperson said. “The funding figure will be published shortly."

The spokesperson said the change in federal health ministers, from Nicola Roxon to Tanya Plibersek in December, had not caused any delay in the $466.7 million initiative, with the exact figure to be published “shortly”.

“The government's commitment to e-health remains as strong under minister Plibersek and the change of minister will not delay any projects.”

The funding will support the management of delivery partners to complete the build of the system, to implement strategies to encourage take-up of the PCEHR, and to support the e-health sites in implementing and testing aspects of e-health record.

There has been much speculation on the government’s ability to complete the project by the specified deadline, with the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA) recommending DoHA revise the scope and complexity of the project in order to have it completed in time.

MSIA president, Jon Hughes, outlined a plan for the introduction of simplified records by 1 July to a Senate committee examining the PCEHR Bill 2011.

NEHTA has also come under scrutiny after it paused implementation of primary care desktop software development at a number of the project’s lead implementation sites in January.

A NEHTA spokesperson would not comment on whether the halt in proceedings would delay the progress of the initiative but said the issue should be resolved in March.

“NEHTA remains committed to the pilot sites and to progressing the national e-health programme,” the spokesperson said. “The changes required to be made to specifications are expected to be finalised mid to late March and NEHTA is working closely with its key stakeholders around the implications to their programmes.”

The previous round of funding received by NEHTA for the PCEHR was $50.5 million for the period from May to October 2011, which followed $38.5 million from November 2010 to April 2011.

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