Australian e-Health Research Centre to receive A$20 million in funding and to join Open Health Tools Foundation

Brisbane 31 July 2008The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has welcomed the launch of the Australian e-Health Research Centre (AEHRC) as a national venture, supported by 20 million Australian dollars in funding from the Federal and Queensland governments. AEHRC has also joined the Open Health Tools Foundation, an international organisation devoted to improving patient and care provider access to reliable medical information.

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Established in 2003 as a joint venture between CSIRO and the Queensland Government, the AEHRC is a key delivery point into the health system for CSIRO health research based on information and communication technologies (ICT).

CSIRO ICT Centre Deputy Director, Dr. Darrell Williamson, said the Brisbane-based AEHRC has established research nodes in Adelaide and Melbourne and already made significant progress in realising the potential of ICT for improving health outcomes.

The AEHRC research programme delivers to CSIRO's Preventative Health National Research Flagship, which seeks to improve the health and well being of Australians through research into prevention, early detection and intervention.

Research undertaken at the AEHRC is leading to the development of simulated training tools - enabling colonoscopists, for instance, to become more skilled, home monitoring systems for patients recovering from heart attack, and improved imaging techniques to facilitate early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.

Advanced software tools are also being used to link and analyse large and complex data sets to help improve cancer care, better understand the risks associated with anaesthesia and enable secure and ready access of electronic medical records for health care professionals.

CSIRO and the Queensland Government have announced that $20 million would be provided to fund the Centre's operations until 2012. This announcement also celebrates the AEHRC's new premises at the University of Queensland's Centre for Clinical Research at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

Eminent clinician and AEHRC Medical Director, Professor Bruce Barraclough AO, stated: "It is an exciting time to be working with AEHRC scientists and engineers who are making great progress in addressing important health issues. Their research is starting to fulfil expectations that health information technology can make a real difference to the delivery of health care."

AEHRC CEO Gary Morgan said the Centre has a strong focus on seeing research innovation translated into outcomes for patients and health care professionals. "The funding renewal will allow us to complete some major projects as well as initiate some new projects with a national focus. They will be undertaken with some of the best practitioners and hospitals across Australia - ensuring we have the critical mass to apply technology to make a real difference to health outcomes", Mr. Morgan stated.

Commenting on AEHRC joining the Open Health Tools (OHT) Foundation, Gary Morgan said that the OHT Foundation - whose membership consists of leading health care and IT professionals - is developing software tools that will improve interoperability between health systems to reduce the number of medical errors due to misinterpretation of clinical data.

"AEHRC will make contributions to a number of OHT projects that align with the Centre's health data and smart methods research programme", Mr. Morgan stated. "One example is our work on simplifying clinical terminology - if all computer systems use the same terms to describe their health information then we can be confident that each system understands exactly the information being passed to it. This type of interoperability reduces the likelihood of mistakes being made and helps ensure the health of our patients."

AEHRC is already making a contribution to the development of clinical terminology through Snorocket which is a fast-classifier for SNOMED-CT - an international health terminology standard developed by the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO). Snorocket is a software tool that provides terminology authors with a way of very quickly understanding whether or not their use of SNOMED-CT is correct.

A project Officer with Australia's National Centre for Classification in Health (NCCH), Donna Truran, said that NCCH has benefited from AEHRC's innovative approach to applied research, particularly through its use of Snorocket in the SNOMED-CT environment.

Dr. Andy Bond, the Chief Architect of the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) - the peak governmental body responsible for e-health adoption in Australia - congratulated AEHRC on its membership of the OHT. "AEHRC's talented team of innovators will make a valuable contribution to the OHT vision", he stated.

Mr. Morgan said that OHT membership provides AEHRC with another "path to impact" for its health data and smart methods research programme. "It's an exciting time for e-health not only in Australia but also around the globe. International collaboration opportunities such as OHT are a valuable mechanism through which AEHRC research can ultimately make a difference to the treatment patients", he stated.


Leslie Versweyveld

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