Every Australian should be assigned their own electronic health record number by the middle of next year, with the federal government releasing the draft legislation establishing the system.
Introducing personal e-health records will slash $627 million off the health budget every year, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says a national e-health system will allow health providers to share patient records and improve care.
“Mismatching of patient information has been an acknowledged problem in the health system,” she said in a statement on Thursday.
“These unique identifiers will provide a new level of confidence and accuracy when communicating patient information across and between private and government healthcare providers involved in providing care to patients.
“To date, there has been no single method of accurately and reliably identifying either the people receiving healthcare, the healthcare providers or the organisations managing care.”
People with a Medicare card or Department of Veterans’ Affairs treatment card will automatically be allocated an e-health number.
Others will be assigned an identifier “on an individual basis”.
Individual healthcare providers and provider organisations will also receive a number.
The e-health system will initially be operated by Medicare.
Ms Roxon says it’s a “trusted government authority” with the national infrastructure and industry links “to securely deliver and maintain the identifiers”.
The federal privacy commissioner will oversee the system.
“It is planned to have the healthcare identifiers from mid-2010 subject to legislation having been passed by the Australian parliament,” Ms Roxon said.
The public can comment on the draft laws establishing the system until January 7 next year.