Return of the JeHDI

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians was in the news this week with the release of its pre-election statement outlining what it thought should be on the policy agenda for the incoming government. There were some quite excellent suggestions in the document about preventative health and financial levers for improving chronic disease management and the obesity crisis, as well as a few long shots that have no chance of getting up.

Ideas like a tax on sugary drinks and volumetric taxation for alcohol are extremely unpalatable to the two major parties and would incite enormous rounds of pearl clutching from the anti-nanny state types, the very people who were responsible for encouraging the abolition of the Australian National Preventative Health Agency in 2014, which the RACP now wants re-established.

Changes to the Health Star Rating system is much more doable, as that system is close to collapsing under the weight of its own nonsense. Also nonsensical is the 15km distance requirement put on specialist telehealth consultations, which causes all sorts of problems for patients with mobility issues and the college is keen to see the back of.

What it most certainly won't get is a practice incentive type fund to encourage more participation by specialists in the My Health Record. Considering the earning potential of specialist practices, there would be few people indeed who would applaud scarce resources being put into paying private consultants to use a computer. The RACP has called for a widening of the Health Care Homes model to include specialists and has a few good things to say in its statement about improving integrated care, the communication between GPs and specialists and case conferencing, but they'll find it a tough row to hoe to get the specialist side of this put on the public purse.

A lot of what the college says in its statement is sensible but that means little when the major parties are busy promising vast sums to hospital infrastructure but little to primary care. Hospital funding wins votes, as do promises to reduce waiting lists. Properly funding general practice does not. We still think that the next government should take a listen to AMA president Tony Bartone's speech at the National Press Club in July last year and do exactly what he says, but Darryl Kerrigan has more chance of being elected prime minister than that coming about.

Elsewhere, the Australian Department of Defence released more information on its upcoming tender for a new system to manage the health of deployed and non-deployed ADF members. It will include a new primary care practice management system for garrison sites, a critical care system and a complete eHealth record for all ADF staff. It will also be very closely watched, with the last implementation not doing the department's reputation much good.

Defence is unfortunately calling this new program the JP2060 Phase 4 Health Knowledge Management (HKM) solution. We hope they find a better acronym for this and offer for their delectation one they briefly considered in the past and should look at anew. That was the original name for the existing system and was thrillingly called JeHDI, for Joint eHealth Data and Information System. It was never used in the end so has great recycling potential.

Also in the news was the announcement that the National Cancer Screening Register will begin handling the national bowel cancer screening program from November – good luck, Telstra Health, you may need it – and that the Department of Health will finally roll out the new quality improvement incentive (PIP QI) from August, after many delays. We'll have more on that next week.

In the meantime, our poll question for this week is: should the ePIP be extended to specialist physician practices?

Sign up to our weekend edition or Pulse+IT Chat to vote, or leave your thoughts below.

Last time, we asked if, given the choice, you would rather use a health record from Apple or the government. It was reasonably close, with 55 per cent choosing the government and 45 per cent declaring themselves fanbois.

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