February 2007

Making Australia e-Health aware

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The Consumers' Health Forum of Australia Inc (CHF) is the  national voice of Australia for its health consumers. It helps shape Australia's health system by representing and involving consumers in health policy and program development and reaches nearly 1 million Australians across a wide range of health interests and health system experiences. Established in 1987, it is an independent member-based non-government organisation for health consumers. It receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, and also through membership and specially-funded projects. CHF provides the Australian government and policy makers with a consumer perspective on health issues and balances the view of health care professionals, service providers and industry.

CHF has made a major contribution to the understanding of e-health for consumer networks and promoted informed debate on key e-health issues through its 2004-05 and 2005-06 e-Health projects. One of the important projects of CHF in the recent times that the organization has been currently undertaking is the 'E-health for Consumers Project 2006-08'. A major focus of this project is to involve and encourage health consumers to participate in creating a demand for e-Health initiatives, which will enable them to act as active partners in the matter of their own health.

Though the major focus of this project can be described in a sentence-achieving  'E-health for Consumers Project 2006-08' where the major objectives are to be fulfilled in its two-year duration. Besides the above mentioned one, some of the other key project objectives are to empower consumers to lobby healthcare providers, professional health service organisations and statutory bodies for adopting e-Health initiatives that improve consumer outcomes; to inform consumers about e-Health opportunities for themselves through workshops, the CHF website, newsletters, publications and other media opportunities as they arise; liaise with the Australian Government's Department of Heath and Ageing to inform consumers on a national basis about the e-Health initiatives in their state or region; continuing to support consumer representatives on national e-Health committees, and providing informed consumer representation that is well-linked to health consumer organisations and networks; and maintaining CHF activities that provide consumers with an opportunity to give input on and be kept informed about e-Health developments across Australia.

The project is ambitious in its scope and vision and its expected outcomes are also many. Some of them include achieving consumer impact assessments of a sample of e-Health tools and systems; ensuring effective consumer advocacy on Australia's e-Health committees; and inducing key stakeholders to engage with CHF on effective implementation of e-Health initiatives. 

Among other expected outcomes, the project is expected to ensure that the consumer needs and requirements of e-Health tools determine their suitability, and inform about their use with a focus on better health outcomes for consumers.  It is also expected to generate increased consumer awareness of the use of electronic medication records and other electronic tools by health care providers, which would strengthen partnerships between health care providers and consumers, and to create improved understanding for consumers, particularly those with a chronic condition, about the use of e-Health tools.

The links between CHF, consumer representatives on national e-Health committees, state-based consumer representatives and organisations involved with e-Health committees and initiatives are expected to be maintained or improved. A reference group provides guidance for the project, which includes the development and implementation of consumer consultation strategies on e-Health developments. A Liaison Officer of Australian Government's Department of Health and Ageing participates as an observer on the Reference Group and facilitates two-way communication between the Department and CHF. The'E-health for Consumers Project  2006-08 is funded by the Australian Government's Department of Health and Ageing.  

For further details visit: http://www.chf.org.au/projects/PROJ9/index.asp

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