The Federal Government today delivered the health sector a much clearer picture of how its giant $466.7 million electronic health records project will be delivered, with the initiation of a major purchasing initiative for the project through the nation’s peak e-health body.
This afternoon the National E-Health Transition Authority — which, with the Federal Department of Health, is coordinating the project — went to market for what it called a “National Authentication Service for Health (NASH).
“The NASH is a foundation component within NEHTA’s overall program to foster the design and development of technology to deliver the best e-health system for Australia,” the government-owned company wrote. “It will provide a strong authentication service for the Australian healthcare sector and contribute to providing a capability that ensures that transactions are private, traceable and only conducted by known entities.”
In its documentation, NEHTA noted it would lead the development of the NASH, together with a number of other foundation e-health services which would ultimately deliver the personally controlled electronic health record long-promised by Health Minister Nicola Roxon.
In June, Roxon said it would be at least two years before patients would be able to use the promised e-health ID system online, describing it at the time as similar to accessing your bank details.
Australia’s health sector has long looked forward to the move to electronic health records from paper-based systems, due to the potential the new technology offers for better clinical outcomes and efficiency when dealing with patient information.
In its documents, NEHTA said it had been working on the NASH since early 2008.
The new system will be based on public key infrastructure (PKI) and secure tokens. “NEHTA has embraced PKI and multi-factor authentication capabilities, which will achieve the authentication assurance required by the Australian healthcare community,” the document stated.
The NASH system has a number of key objectives, namely to:
- Establish a national framework for issuing and managing trusted digital credentials to all entities in the healthcare sector, enabling every interaction between patients and providers in the healthcare sector
- Deliver suitable authentication services for the planned overarching Healthcare Identifier service
- Accredit local PKI services within local healthcare communities
- Aid in transitioning existing e-health systems to use the new NASH digital certificates
- Provide the foundation to other NEHTA initiatives such as secure messaging — enabling e-health services such as electronic referrals and discharge summaries
Australian e-health blogger and consultant David More — a long-time NEHTA critic — immediately criticised the NEHTA initiative. “In summary for almost 3 years we have been told NASH is coming and now we discover it was just a twinkle in someone’s eye and will now be designed and developed externally because NEHTA can’t quite work out how to do it,” he wrote on his blog.
“Incompetence piled on deception adds up to me to a serious need for some management accountability to be delivered with some major resignations for having wasted public money.”