- Forum Guidelines
What is e-Health?
E-health, or "ehealth" as it is sometimes written, is a catch-all term used to describe healthcare that is supported by information technology and modern communications systems. Sometimes it is used specifically to describe internet-enabled healthcare, however that ignores the broad advances made in healthcare brought about by the information technology revolution that has occurred over the last few decades.
In Australia, the e-health agenda is supported by broad initiatives aimed at providing every Australian with a 16-digit unique healthcare identifier number, along with a personal, portable electronic health record.
In addition to these two initiatives are efforts aimed at reducing information overlap - and oversight - at the individual clinician level. This could be as simple as ensuring that all clinicians use personal computers, the internet and appropriate practice software to streamline the delivery of services to their patients.
The challenges faced by governments, institutions and even individuals when it comes to creating an electronically-enabled healthcare system are significant. Privacy is the obvious bogeyman, however privacy can be adequately dealt with by appropriate legislation and best practice, along with education for clinicians, patients and other key stakeholders.
It's impossible to overstate the challenge that funding places on the creation of a modern e-healthcare system. The Federal Government most recently allocated $467 million towards the creation of individual e-healthcare records in the last federal budget. By some estimations, this is around one third to one quarter of the amount needed to establish a fully functional e-health system.
Establishing electronic standards for e-health records also remains problematic, as do questions over who will host electronic healthcare records - will it be a private company such as Microsoft or Google, or a government agency?
Stakeholder buy-in, at both an individual clinician level and at a patient level, could also present challenges. Recent research published in the BMJ indicates that for clinician buy-in, long-established cultures and avenues of co-operation need to be disrupted and rebuilt. There is also the question of whether patients will buy-in to having their medical records held electronically, often across different jurisdictions and stakeholders.
E-health presents virtually limitless opportunities for improving service delivery, maximising clinical outcomes in non-traditional environments (for example, service delivery to people in their own homes), and minimising the potential for errors, such as medication dosage and frequency mistakes.
eHealthSpace.org provides a range of resources for clinicians and the health community. Visit our resources section here.
NEHTA has also prepared this video below which provides more information about Australia's approach to e-health.
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