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Canberrans could have electronic health cards storing patient records and information within ''the next few years'', Health Minister Katy Gallagher says.

The move comes on the back of a national report that shows state and federal governments have wasted $5billion of investment in electronic health systems.

Up to 18 per cent of medical errors in Australia could be blamed on the poor quality of health system information.

Ms Gallagher said the work was already under way to develop an electronic health card for the ACT and ''frequent flyers'' to hospitals would be first in line for the new cards.

''I think the key groups that we'd like to start with is people with chronic disease because then all their specialists, all their different practitioners themselves can all access the records and see what's going on,'' she said.

The Government would consider an ''opt-out'' system for the health cards.

Before the October election, ACT Labor promised to spend $90million on information technology projects and capital work, including $47million for secure electronic health records.

Ms Gallagher said that commitment was ''solid'' despite the economic crisis.

''I would say that's not affected because we're still running cash surpluses and we have to finance this rebuild of the health system,'' she said.

Ms Gallagher said a new national e-health strategy issued earlier this month showed Australia lagged many years behind other countries in Asia and Europe when it came to electronic health records.

Researchers Deloitte, who compiled the report, found Australia's electronic health systems were fragmented and dysfunctional. Patients mostly had no access to their health records and information, which was stored in multiple ''silos'' across the health system.

They also had limited control over access to their health records.

Health-care managers were forced to rely on ''incomplete, fragmented and untimely'' data to make decisions and spent much of their time chasing information from different sources.

The findings were part of a national e-health strategy developed by Deloitte and endorsed by Australian health ministers at a meeting earlier this month.

The strategy includes a 10-year ''road map'' for IT and health and outlines a list of goals for the electronic health system.

In 10 years' time, 90 per cent of Australian patients should be able to access their health records electronically and half of all patients could deal with the health system online.

By that time all medical providers should have broadband internet which they use to send and receive health information.

Ms Gallagher said electronic health contracts could be offered to local IT companies as part of an economic package in the new year.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Natasha Rudra

Quelle/Source: The Canberra Times, 31.12.2008

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