Australia Moving Ahead With Massive PHR Project

Posted on April 2, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Recently, I wrote a piece for this blog arguing that the PHR model was at a turning point — and didn’t hide my doubts that this approach had much of a future.

In response, one of our readers was kind enough to tip us off to a massive PHR project which had never shown up on my radar. Apparently, the Australian government is well into building the infrastructure to support a nationally-available PCEHR (personally controlled electronic health record).

The $467 million project, which is undergoing its second wave of testing and development, will make PCEHRs available to consumers by July 1, 2012.  Nine sites are running related projects, including:

*   A system making prescribing and dispensing data available to 2 million citizens and their providers

*   A project targeting data sharing among palliative care patients and clinicians

*   A site focused on improved health for a population of about 9,000 mothers and newborns

*   A consumer-oriented portal, serving chronically-ill patients, integrating patient-entered medical data into a “Health Book”

The PCEHR project comes as Australian health officials undertake a package of national health reforms, including efforts to increase access to primary care and a $20 billion investment in improving public hospitals.

While I still doubt that the current US approach to personal health records makes sense — who decided consumers would bother with a sort of “extra” set of records designed to make key data available in a poorly-defined emergency situation? — rolling out PHRs aggressively as a key component of a primary care-oriented national health reform makes a great deal of sense.

I’m eager to see how Aussie citizens respond next year when the PCEHR goes live.  If consumers are convinced that the personal record is the key to better health, I’m sure they’ll jump on board.