Health Information Exchange becoming a reality in Canada. When in Australia?

| July 21, 2010

Canada is getting on with the job that matters with eHealth information:  Health Information Exchange (I call it HIX…). 

In Australia, are we running the risk of building last century’s equivalent: a large, monolithic Health Information Record (eHR) system?

Hopefully not…

The budget announcements by the Minister for Health and Ageing show some encouraging signs:  for example, in “Support for e-records cautiously welcomed” in The Australian on 15 May 2010, she was very careful in her choice of words not to exclude (nor confirm) an option based on HIX.

What do I mean by Health Information Exchange?  It is real time exchange and aggregation of relevant health information about an individual, regardless of where it is held.  This exchange remains within the control of the individual except where delegated (eg to a health professional or a family carer) or consistent with agreed ‘break the glass’ emergencies.  The concept is similar to today’s web page which is constructed in real time from many sources.

IIS has described this as the ‘way of the future’ for some time, even before the National Hospitals & Health Reform Commission came to the same conclusion.  See “‘Cutting Through’: Using Health Information Technology for Effective Chronic Care Delivery” which we prepared for The Health Information Exchange Project.

Done right, an approach based on Health Information Exchange would be vastly CHEAPER AND BETTER if government established a well regulated, competitive market place for the supply of services instead of building a monopoly that will inevitably fall behind the 8-ball.  The argument that Health Information Exchange would inherently increase privacy risk compared with a government built system is ridiculous: it is the attention to privacy & the way any system is built & governanced that matters, not the question of ownership.

One interpretation of HIX based thinking that I particularly like is Microsoft HealthVault.  It has just been instantiated into Canada with Telus Health as the local partner.  There is an excellent demo video available at their website.  And it addresses the privacy question.