Long game succeeds for the anti-faxers

There was good news for healthcare's anti-fax advocates this week with the announcement that the Department of Health would finally move to allow GPs to send referrals to the My Aged Care system through their clinical software.

It never made much sense to have phone, fax and webform referrals but not a more suitable route, considering the cost of equipping the My Aged Care contact centre to receive secure messages from any of the four or five vendors on the market wouldn't have been high.

We don't know what proportion this project will take out of the $61.7 million allocated in the May budget to yet another revamp of My Aged Care, but since the timeframe has been put at between 12 and 18 months for the implementation, we suspect that rather than just basic secure messaging capability the department is sensibly going down the track of using a smart form integrated into clinical software instead.

There are a couple of these technologies on the market and for this purpose, they make a lot of sense. GPs can pre-populate them with their patient's data, tick a few boxes and shoot it off with the click of a mouse. At the other end, the My Aged Care contact centre's systems can scoop up the data without a human having to type it all in again.

The department is also promising the ability to let referrers track where their referral has got to. This will be a huge relief as in the past referrals have just disappeared into the ether and no reason is given for a referral being rejected. That can be as simple as the older person having already been referred or not qualifying for Commonwealth-funded aged care, but there has been little transparency on this in the past and we applaud the department for finally listening to referrers.

The anti-faxers would not have been too impressed by the UK's National Health Service, however, which seems to have missed the memo. It has been named as the world's largest buyer of fax machines, with up to 9000 currently in use. This should have come as a blow to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who once promised a paperless NHS by 2018 and has set in train plans to roll out a new app giving all Brits access to their GP record by the end of the year.

Mr Hunt won't be in charge anymore though, as just this week he has been promoted to fill Boris Johnson's clown-sized shoes as Foreign Secretary. In an ominous development, Mr Hunt's successor, Matt Hancock, has been revealed as a big fan of Babylon's GP at hand app, which provides free online consults and is funded by the NHS, to the fury of doctors' groups. Babylon's AI technology passed the RCGP exam last week, infuriating them even more.

Back home and we reported that Eastern Melbourne PHN has decided to pay for a year's worth of access to the My Emergency Dr video call service for after-hours emergency care in its region. Considering the hue and cry over previous attempts at providing after-hours advice by telehealth, we're surprised there has been no outrage about this, but the year is still young.

While eastern Melbourne is getting a video call app, north eastern Melbourne will soon be trialling the MediTracker app for people with poorly controlled diabetes. MediTracker is so far the only app available that can give patients access to the medical record held by their GP. MediRecords has one and Best Practice is soon to release its own but they are both tied to that clinical system, whereas MediTracker can be used with BP, MedicalDirector, Zedmed and any practice using Precedence's cdmNet.

It also links to Apple Health, Google Fit and lots of other devices and apps. Patients are able to see all sorts of information from all sorts of systems on one app, including in the near future their My Health Record. When the Argonaut project gets going and patients are able to access their hospital medical record though a FHIR-enabled app, this sort of technology will provide a pretty substantial information bucket and will open the way for other app developers to provide even more value to users. It's pretty cool stuff.

Speaking of the My Health Record, opt out is here. On Monday, everyone with a Medicare card will have a three-month window in which to opt out of the now six-year old system. Information packs have been sent to general practices and pharmacies, and we understand that targeted advertising is set to begin this weekend, with local print and radio spots booked as well as national media through outlets like the indigenous TV station Imparja.

The mass media is finally covering the story – Channel Nine had a go here, misspelling new AMA president Tony Bartone's name in the process – but despite the best efforts of the privacy lobby to instil the fear of exposure of sensitive information into the person on the street, we think the apathy of the general public allied to a natural curiosity among some to finally have access to their own health information will overcome the fear-mongering.

There'll be rush on Monday by the implacably opposed to opt out of the system but we reckon that will taper off pretty quickly. In the opt-out trials, less than two per cent opted out and some of those opted back in again, which we expect will happen in the wider roll-out.

We're interested in your thoughts on this. This week's poll asks: Will you opt out of the My Health Record?

Sign up to our weekend edition to vote or leave your thoughts below.

Our poll last week asked: Do you think the government should pay GPs to use My Health Record? This was a close-run thing: 48.5 per cent said yes, 51.5 per cent said no.

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