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Some challenges still remain, but government says it will implement integrated health information systems next year.

The start-up phase for its national electronic health record system will finally begin in 2010, says the Department of Health.

While progress has been slow on the implementation of the system, the department says it will be ready to implement the system next year.

It says all the relevant documentation for the start-up phase of the project has been finalised with the State IT Agency (SITA) and the SITA board. It also reports that consultations with all stakeholders in the private and public sectors have been completed.

SA has embarked on a process of developing a national electronic health record (EHR) for all patients in public hospitals. An EHR is a database of patient health information, which will include demographics, vital signs, medical history, medications, procedures, laboratory data and radiology reports.

SITA and the department were tasked with establishing the requirements for implementing an electronic record system.

The department is also creating an e-health strategy, which will guide all its ICT projects. While noting that existing challenges include adequate ICT infrastructure, bandwidth capacity and meeting approved standards, it says the electronic record is still “paramount”.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi previously stated the current fragmented health information systems and sub-systems would be integrated into a single, national system. The focus of the department would be to establish an integrated national data warehouse for all data sources and tracking of human resources equipment, physical status of facilities and expenditure.

The collection, organisation, reporting, storage and use of data for planning, management and healthcare services would strengthen existing health programmes and help the department achieve its priorities, it notes.

Privacy and confidentiality of individuals’ health records will be secured before embarking on the implementation of the system, adds the department. Approved standards, by a recognised body that provides rules and guidelines, would also be in place before the start-up phase.

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“This would help the department to achieve its priorities and strengthen health programmes through the development of a nationwide integrated system.”