Saturday, 3 October 2009

Make e-health funding priority: AMA

By Karen Dearne

THE Australian Medical Association has called for priority funding for e-health adoption, saying the roll-out should start with e-prescribing and electronic sharing of essential patient information.

E-health is one of seven key areas identified for urgent action, with AMA president Andrew Pesce handing the doctors' Priority Investment Plan to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Health Minister Nicola Roxon at a meeting in Canberra.

The AMA wants the Federal Government to assume full responsibility for funding the nation's public hospitals, with the states retaining control over operations and local governance arrangements.

Dr Pesce said the time for talk was over.

"We are offering real solutions to real problems," he said.

"The AMA fully supports the roll-out of e-health initiatives in order to integrate systems, reduce fragmentation and duplication, streamline service delivery and improve quality and safety.

"Priority needs now to go to funding the infrastructure for e-health - especially electronic health records - given that the investment to date has focused on development of standards and technical specifications."

But the AMA rejects the recent National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission recommendation that patients should control their own e-health records, saying medical practitioners should control the electronic sharing of patient information between healthcare providers.

Dr Pesce flagged doctors' concerns over person-controlled health records at an e-health forum last month.

The AMA's action plan for investment includes closing the health gap for Indigenous Australians; boosting patient access to GPs and allied health services; medical training and a restoration of facilities for people with mental illness and sub-acute care.

The AMA also wants to see remote communities wired-up for e-health services such as telehealth and web-based consultations.

And it suggests a new monitoring system, Bed Watch, should be implemented to allow continuous reporting on the number of beds available in public hospitals, and to identify occupancy issues such as access block in emergency departments.

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