What's going on with Health Care Homes?

The flurry of activity in the primary healthcare sector continued to dominate the news this week, with the big guns in the private pathology sector all now signing on to connect to the My Health Record, patient education getting a run and patient portals also in the news.

But while our most popular story for the week was the news that Primary and ACL are joining Sonic in working towards uploading private pathology reports to the national system, there was also news about other big public initiatives kicking off, including the cervical cancer screening program renewal and the second tranche of practices going live as Health Care Homes.

The cervical screening program went live on Friday and seems to have gone off well – Canberra GP Thinus van Rensburg again offering the best market research and feedback any software vendor could hope for in our comments section – and the 168 extra practices are now live with the Health Care Homes project, joining the 22 that started back in October.

Our story from last week on Health Care Homes continued to generate a bit of interest, perhaps due to some of the shenanigans going on with the choice of software on offer for shared care plans, one of the essential elements of the trial. For some reason we have yet to uncover, practices are being given a whole year to use compliant shared care planning tools – long enough for a savvy vendor to build and launch a completely new system, we reckon – and vendors also being given a whole year to connect to the MyHR.

Really? Vendors must “commit to integrating” with the My Health Record, the Department of Health's advice says, but for HCH practices themselves it's mandatory. We hear there's something a bit dodgy going on here, illustrated by some argy-bargy over a little table prepared by the South Eastern Melbourne PHN for other PHNs and HCH practices to use as guidance about the software products out there and their pluses and minuses.

Apparently this table has upset some people so much that they've insisted it be removed and another version put in its place, a version that just happens to exclude things that practices would actually find quite useful, like the software's rating compared to others on the market and its cost. Apparently the department and the Medical Software Industry Association are developing a new matrix that everyone can agree on, but there's no sign of that so far. If the HCH project is to be successful, this sort of drama needs to be sorted or the whole, complex undertaking will fall in a heap.

Speaking of complex undertakings, News Corp had its usual problem understanding My Health Record again this week. What a surprise! Leading with a headline about outrage from privacy groups – again, what a surprise – there are some basic errors in this story about the marketing campaign for the opt-out program, one being that there'll be no public advertising about the options for opt out. We are assured that there will. And sending a letter to everyone about opt out won't be enough – in the two opt-out trials, only 40 per cent of people remembered receiving a letter in the first place and many chucked it in the bin.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: whatever your views on the My Health Record, good, bad or indifferent, make sure you at least know what the hell you are talking about before pontificating on it. According to News Corp, your podiatrist's receptionist will be taking a squizz at your STI report and your mental health history. If they do, they go to jail, so we suspect not. And sensitive info is not going to go up without your knowledge or consent anyway.

This brings us to our poll from last week, which asked: Will GPs eventually see value in My Health Record? A good result for the believers: 63 per cent say yes, 37 per cent no.

For our poll this week, we thought we'd look at secure messaging interoperability. This is something that GPs are all for, but do you expect specialists and allied health to take up secure messaging services if they are not paid to do so?

To vote in the poll sign up for our weekend edition or leave your comments below.

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