Australians will soon benefit from a national electronic system that can record and track a person's medical history - reducing the nation's reliance on paper-based documentation.
The blueprints for a personally controlled electronic health record system (PCEHRS) have been delivered by the government for public scrutiny, with submissions still active for professional contributions.
Speaking on the features of the proposed eHealth network, minister for health and aging Nicola Roxon said that Australians would benefit from increased access to secure information that could save lives and reduce expenses.
Roxon asserted: "Patients will no longer have to remember every medical test, immunisation or prescription they have. Doctors and other health care professionals will no longer have to rely on patients to accurately recall past treatment and will be able to work together more easily to provide better care."
The concept of operations details the refinements made after extensive consultations with state and local governments, healthcare bodies, programming specialists and patient organisations.
Technical standards have been released, laying out the minimum requirements in terms of infrastructure that organisations will need to be able to access the benefits provided by the eHealth system.
To help ensure that the network is as comprehensive as possible, the contributors have included more than 1.1 million unique medical identifiers so far.
In terms of uptake, beta testing has already matched over 725,000 medical records and patient histories over 270 GP practices - showing that the system will be capable of providing healthcare professionals with access to potentially life-saving data without waiting on the delivery of paper-based documentation.
The PCEHRS will be operated on a voluntary basis - organisations will need to opt in to the system to gain access to files, while patients will need to give their consent before any of their details are recorded.
With the rollout not due to take place until July 2012, the centrally-controlled system will be able to benefit from the extensive network of fibre-optic technologies that make up the national broadband network.
It may be possible that members of the public will also be able to access their own records at a later date, which could make the role of medical negligence lawyers and no win no fee law firms easier by reducing the waiting times associated with the distribution of patient files.
"Within a decade we will see our strategic broadband and eHealth investments delivering the full power of smart health technologies across Australia, helping people live healthier lives," said Roxon.