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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7129

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (18:21): Starting with the National Authentication Service for Health, the NASH, it is a COAG funded e-health project that is being overseen by the National E-Health Transition Authority, or NEHTA, which is governed by a board that includes representatives of the Commonwealth and of every state and territory. The NASH is designed to do three key things: to authenticate healthcare providers who want to use the personally controlled electronic health record; to make sure that only authorised healthcare providers are able to use the system; and to provide the digital certificates and signatures to support secure messaging capabilities—for example, the electronic referrals from one healthcare professional to another, paperless electronic prescriptions and so on.

NEHTA contracted IBM to build and implement NASH by July this year. That work has not been completed, so there is a new timetable for IBM to deliver that work. Any cost for the revised timetable will not be passed on to taxpayers. A new timetable will have no impact on patient registration for the PCEHR, which is scheduled to begin in July. The Department of Health and Ageing has worked with the Department of Human Services to develop an interim authentication solution that will be available until the NASH is up and running later this year. That solution will leverage off the DHS existing public key infrastructure system—at the GP practice GPs will notice no difference.

As we have said before, we expect patients to begin registering from July and that providers will come on later. We are taking this step by step because this is a large and complex project, and since I took over as minister I have said that this will be done carefully, step by step.

The shadow parliamentary secretary also asked about online registration. We have said from the very beginning that in-person and telephone registration will come before online registration. The 1 July date has been for phone and in-person registration. I have made it as clear as I can in a number of public statements and a number of speeches that we do not expect a flood of people from the beginning of July to start registering themselves for their personally controlled e-health records. What we expect is that patients in wave sites who have GPs who are already participating in one way or another in the e-health project will be the people who are likely to benefit very early on.

Our further expectation is that people to whom this will appeal early on will be people with chronic and complex health conditions who are interacting with a number of different health professionals. They might be seeing a GP, several specialists, allied health professionals and others. For people who go to the doctor once a year it is not going to be on top of their list of things to do on 1 July, and I understand that. The other thing that will happen over time is that the functionality—

Dr Southcott: When?

Ms PLIBERSEK: When what? When will they register? When will 23 million Australians register? They will do it gradually over time. The next thing I was going to mention is that the functionality of the personally controlled e-health record will become much more appealing for patients, GPs and other health professionals as Medicare data and PBS historic data are downloaded into those systems. We expect that to happen in the second half of this year as well. That will make it, obviously, a much more appealing proposition for both GPs and patients.

I think it is very important to say that this is a project about which Tony Abbott, as health minister in 2003, was saying if it did not happen during the time that he was health minister—and he was health minister for five years— (Time expired)