Department of Health reveals e-health partner requirements

A single party will be responsible for the establishment and ongoing operation of the technology infrastructure required to implement the Federal Government’s $467 million personally controlled e-health records (PCEHR).

Documents reveal the Department of Health and Ageing is requesting a tender for provision of “national infrastructure solution services”, to be provided by one of four private sector partners aiding the development and implementation of the PCEHR system.

The winning bidder would effectively provide and entire bundle of enabling systems including core system infrastructure; operations and call centres; reporting and template servicing; and separated portals for use by both consumers and healthcare providers.

While some of the pieces of infrastructure could be outsourced to third-party providers, the partner would be responsible for detailed, fit-for-purpose design for the infrastructure as well as operability testing and ongoing support to third parties and lead e-health agency, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) for the system.

“The National Infrastructure Partner will undertake all Services on its own premises, and is responsible for the establishment, configuration and maintenance of development and test environments (and production and training environments if subsequently engaged to provide operation Services),” tender documents read.

It remains unclear as to whether the national infrastructure partner would necessarily be a part of the private sector. NEHTA chief executive, Peter Fleming, has suggested in the past that Medicare Australia - which currently operates the unique health identifiers system under a two-year contract - could be drafted to implement and operate the e-health records themselves under a similar contract.

Computerworld Australia contacted both the Department of Health and Ageing and NEHTA, but neither replied at time of writing.

The partner is expected to be decided following closure of tenders on 22 March this year.

The first of the four partners - for benefits realisation and evaluation - is expected to be decided after 18 February. The partner will develop a framework in cohort with the department and NEHTA to potentially link the PCEHR initiative with other programs like the National Broadband Network, while spruiking the benefits of e-health records to patients and clinicians. The partner will also monitor and evaluate implementation of the records at trial sites.

However, potential bidders complained the complexity of the project and the vast number of associations and organisations the partner would have to monitor made it difficult to respond.

In further tenders released recently, the department outlined the requirements for a third partner assisting with change and adoption of the system, to be determined after 5 April. The partner is expected to help market the PCEHR system to those deemed “early target areas”, including those with chronic conditions, older health patients, new mothers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The partner will also help design standards and training programs for change management of relevant e-health systems within health practices and sites.

A fourth partner, an external assurance adviser, has not yet been requested by the department.

The Federal Government has committed $106 million of the total PCEHR funding since the project’s announcement at the 2010/2011 Budget last year. Much of that funding has gone to e-health trial sites with three already established in Brisbane, Melbourne and the Hunter region in NSW.

However, e-health vendors have become concerned that the majority of the $467 million promised by the government will be given to consultants rather than those creating, implementing or using the system.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

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