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Health information management and information technology.

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Media release


The Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge

Minister for Health and Family Services


30 July 1998




Australian Health Ministers today agreed to set up a National Health Information Management Advisory Council to explore the vast potential of information technology in providing health care.


Federal Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Michael Wooldridge, said that developments in information technology and information management are occurring at a rapid rate and will open up opportunities to enhance health care for consumers.


“Unless governments cooperate, we could well end up with a health care system equivalent to the notorious standard rail gauge experience. Uncoordinated systems could evolve in the states and territories that are incompatible, incomplete and costly,” Dr Wooldridge said.


“The establishment of the National Health Information Management Advisory Council will look at these issues in trying to harness information technology.


“We envisage work in this area will give consumers and health professionals on-line access to clinical advice, diagnostic tests and other telemedicine services wherever they are located. These services will also be an invaluable resource for older people, and rural and remote communities.


"The use of information technology will enable patients to provide GPs, specialists, hospitals and health providers with access to comprehensive information on their clinical history, with controls to ensure security and appropriate use of the information.”


Dr Wooldridge said the membership of the Health Information Management Advisory Council would be decided within three weeks and would represent the interests of everyone involved in health care, including consumers.


"A major consideration in adopting information technology for health services is the paramount need to maintain privacy for electronic patient records.


"This will be a major priority for the Council to ensure patient-doctor or health service provider confidentiality is not compromised in the quest to deliver more advanced health care,” Dr Wooldridge said.


The Council’s terms of reference and reporting mechanisms will be established in a month and Health Ministers will evaluate the contribution of the Council in two years.


"One of the biggest IT issues we need to address is the millennium or Y2K bug and the effect this phenomenon will have on the delivery of health services.


“Testing of safeguards is well advanced and producing good results, and all health agencies and providers will be kept informed to ensure the health sector makes a smooth transition into the next century.


“Ministers have referred Y2K matters to the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) for further expert evaluation and consideration,” Dr Wooldridge said.


Media contact: Bill Royce, Dr Wooldridge’. office, (02) 6177 7220