by Rodney Gedda

Govt e-health push can help CIOs innovate

May 13, 2010
GovernmentGovernment ITHealthcare Industry

Health industry CIOs have a real opportunity to drive innovation and break down siloes of information in light of the federal government’s allocation of $467 million to electronic health records over the next two years.

Speaking at an AIIA CIO e-health forum in Sydney, CIO of St Vincent’s Mater Health, Sydney, David Roffe, said one of the most important aspects of e-health is change management.

“Before we put anything in we need to find out how we will change processes,” Roffe said.

Roffe is supportive of the government’s decision to invest more in e-health.

St Vincents has been investing in and developing IT health systems for at least 25 years and has re-written its own patient records system three times.

“Seven years ago we started implementing an electronic medication management system and it was the most difficult project I have ever done,” Roffe said. “Now, the work we have done is being used by the NSW and Victoria governments and that’s fantastic. We need to learn from each other.”

Roffe said NETHA, the National E-Health Transition Authority, has developed a specification to encourage connectivity between health systems in the past and few software vendors participated.

How do CIOs know they are on the path to best practice with e-health systems? Roffe said best practices can be taken from innovation within the organisation itself and with industry standards.

“You have to be pragmatic and there has to be a stakeholder champion to communicate the benefits,” he said. “If it does show benefits then we do research. I have a small sandpit of funding that will allow me to do innovation internally.”

Adam Powick, leading e-health consultant at Deloitte, said governments should not design and build IT systems and the private sector can’t sit back and wait for the government to “tell it what to do”.

“Health IT is not special, but the real challenge is how fragmented it is and the preciousness and sensitivity of the stakeholder groups,” Powick said.

“Anyone with closed or proprietary standards is dead. We are a fragmented industry and need a unified voice.”

Powick said it is time to push e-health to the next generation of health professionals.

Industry experts recently told CIO that a successful e-health strategy would require a bottom-up approach in addition to more funding.