The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is calling on the federal government to extend the eHealth Practice Incentives Program (ePIP) to medical specialists, saying it would encourage the use of eHealth technologies by physicians both in rural and metro settings.
In its 2013-2014 federal budget submission to the Department of Health and Ageing, the college recommends that a specialist incentive payment be made available to enhance the eHealth readiness of specialist doctors similar to that paid to GPs to encourage them to use eHealth technologies, including the PCEHR.
The RACP also wants the government to introduce funding to allow specialists to upgrade their practice IT systems in order to access eHealth and telehealth technologies, and to clarify the position of telehealth within the activity-based funding (ABF) framework.
It also recommends incentivising specialists to deliver more care in the community and being provided with a leadership role within Medicare Locals.
In a statement, RACP president Associate Professor Leslie Bolitho, an advocate for telehealth in rural communities, said that for eHealth to be successful, all medical practitioners in Australia, including GPs and specialists, will need to adopt eHealth technologies.
“The advantages to eHealth are well established,” Dr Bolitho said. “At the most basic level, eHealth can better streamline patient interactions with the healthcare system, and will also help better manage patient outcomes.”
He said that extending the PIP to specialist doctors will encourage the use of emerging eHealth technologies, enabling specialists to update online patient records as required.
“By extending practice incentive payments to physicians, there is the opportunity to better promote communication between medical services, and greatly improve the exchange of information, such as discharge summaries and referral letters, between health services to allow patients to receive improved continuity of care,” he said.
Some clinical management software vendors that target the specialist market are already eHealth-compliant while others are working towards the requirements.
For example, market leader Genie has been fully compliant since last year, including its interface to the PCEHR. It is also planning to introduce specialist and referral letters in CDA format for both its specialist and GP users.
Stat is compliant with the first four requirements of the ePIP and is working on its PCEHR interface, as is Intrahealth for its Profile and Profile Specialist products, while Houston Medical will have the functionality in place later this year.
Dr Bolitho said the college was not asking for the government to allocate additional funds. “[We] ask that a restructure of the PIP eligibility criteria be considered, so that it can be accessed by the multi-disciplinary team,” he said.
“The RACP recommends that a Specialist Practice Incentive Payment be made available to enhance the eHealth readiness of specialist physicians and to encourage the uptake of technology.”
The RACP is also calling on DoHA to consider establishing a national clinical guideline “clearinghouse”, similar to the UK's National Clinical Guideline Centre (NCGC).
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