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The collapse of the $24 million contract to develop a National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) is now in the hands of lawyers following IBM being stripped of the project.

The National E-health Transition Authority, Nehta, awarded IBM the $23.6 million NASH contract in March 2011. IBM was charged with developing an access authentication framework using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and secure tokens to manage access to information stored in PCEHRs (Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records).

Ten days before Australians were able to register for PCEHRs (from July 1) Nehta announced that the IBM developed security system would not be ready. However the launch of the PCEHR went ahead with the Department of Human Services providing an interim security solution.

That interim solution is continuing to operate.

While there has been lukewarm response to the PCEHR from the general public, data continues to be loaded into the system.  Medicare data, including MBS, PBS, Australian Organ Donor Register and Australian Childhood Immunisation Register data, has now been incorporated into the eHealth record system.

With regard to NASH, Nehta this week confirmed that it had terminated the design, build and operate contracts it had with IBM.

According to a spokesperson; “There is an interim NASH developed and being operated now by the Department of Human Services for the PCEHR system. This situation with IBM does not affect consumer access to the eHealth record system in any way, and given the interim NASH solution has been delivered, this does not impact healthcare providers from accessing and uploading eHealth records.

“There is a second component which will support secure messaging and an announcement on this is expected in the very near future."

IBM meanwhile issued a short statement saying it had; “terminated its agreements with the National E-Health Transition Authority and E-Health Authentication Services Pty Ltd to design, build and operate Australia’s National Authentication Service for Health. IBM is unable to comment further as this is an ongoing legal matter.”

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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.

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