Contractors hired for PCEHR but Medicare Locals not happy

The Department of Health and Ageing has confirmed that staff from health services organisation Aspen Medical have been deployed to over 250 healthcare sites including hospital lobbies and outpatient clinics to conduct consumer awareness activities and assisted registration for the PCEHR.

Aspen Medical has been subcontracted by the PCEHR national change and adoption partner, McKinsey & Co, to work in a number of different settings, including aged care, hospital outpatients, immunisation clinics and Aboriginal medical services.

DoHA assistant secretary Rosemary Huxtable told a Senate Estimates committee hearing in Canberra last night that while she would have to check the exact date of when the Aspen staff began to be deployed, they have been contracted until June 30.

Using Aspen Medical staff to sign up consumers was piloted at the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Canberra earlier this year, before the release of an electronic assisted registration tool (ART) in February.

However, Pulse+IT understands that the contract has angered some Medicare Locals, which have also been assisting general practices, hospitals and aged care facilities to raise consumer awareness of the system.

Medicare Locals have been funded to carry out awareness among both practitioners and patients, and it is understood they have certain key performance indicators covering consumer registration that they must reach.

In a letter sent to Medicare Locals in April, DoHA's first assistant secretary for eHealth change and adoption, Linda Powell, wrote that the new assisted registration “channel” was being supported by a dedicated workforce from Aspen and the idea was not to duplicate the work that Medicare Locals were already doing.

“The use of the Aspen workforce will build on the existing Medicare Locals' change and adoption plans,” Ms Powell wrote. “To this end we will work collaboratively with Medicare Locals ensuring no duplication occurs.”

Pulse+IT understands that despite this assurance, many instances of duplication have occurred, with Aspen Medical setting up eHealth assisted registration sessions in the lobbies of public hospitals that Medicare Locals are targeting.

Ms Huxtable told the Senate committee that Aspen is deployed in around 50 hospitals and 200 additional settings including Aboriginal medical services, aged care facilities, immunisation clinics, GP surgeries and Medicare offices.

Asked if the Aspen workforce had certain targets they had to meet, Ms Huxtable said “a target had been set for how many registrations Aspen can achieve, in addition to the other registration channels currently available”.

“Their expectation is around 150,000 registrations by the 30th of June and I think we are on track to exceed that,” she said.

Pulse+IT also understands that a TV advertising campaign for the PCEHR has been devised and is planned to begin shortly, but despite repeated requests for more information, DoHA would not comment.

Posted in Australian eHealth


0 # Troy Bailey 2013-06-07 12:58
We have received Aspen eHealth staff into regional areas that would otherwise have no additional assistance and have been on the whole extremely happy with their work. We have placed them into GP clinics (12 clinics) and assisted them with Provider education. This service has been invaluable to regional Australia, an area that will benefit greatly from having eHealth records, we only wish they could stay longer.
0 # Russell Bowden 2013-06-07 17:03
I agree with Troy. We had a very positive experience working with ASPEN and we very much appreciate the DoHA's assistance in this form.

It's is articles such as this that skew public perception and undermine the fantastic collaborative efforts that are occuring between Medicare Local's and a range of organisations.
0 # Simon James 2013-06-07 17:49
Hi Troy and Russell,

Thanks for your views - glad to see the arrangements are working out for you.

However I can confirm that we have had many hours worth of discussions with your colleagues in the wider Medicare Local network (all off the record of course) that support the tenor of this article. Indeed, it was these folks that brought the contracting arrangements and their concerns about same to our attention in the first place.

The proof about the broader assisted registration process will be in the eating I guess, but early 'meaningful use' statistics aren't that promising IMHO (some recents stats at the end of this article):

....not that the DOHA representatives in the senate estimates session the other night seemed to think monitoring the actual usage of all these new empty PCEHRs was important.

On the other hand, the introduction of integrated assisted registration toolkits within general practice software is a welcome development, so I'm hopeful that PCEHR registrations will start to be done in a more sustainable and cost effective fashion soon.
0 # Dr Love 2013-06-07 21:42
Can't say that I share these glowing reviews of Aspen staff.

At Medicare Woden (Canberra) I had an overweight teenager in track suit pants and runners pushing me to register. He had no knowledge of PCEHR and told me to 'just tick all of the boxes'.

My husband, also a GP, encountered a woman reeking of cigarettes who told him that his 'entire medical records' would now be available online for 'doctors, dentists, specialists, physiotherapist s, anyone'. Again in Canberra.

When he asked her about what PCEHR means she said she didn't really know but gave him a brochure (!) and told him to ring a toll free number.

Visiting one of my patients at Woden Valley Hospital this week I saw a disinterested young woman behind a table in a corridor texting on her iPhone, oblivious.

On a daily basis more than 75% of patients presenting at our practice tell us they have a PCEHR and have joined up after receiving 'a letter in the mail'. Unfortunately none of the referring doctors and specialists I use at WVH can do anything with it.

Don't get me wrong because I am definitely in favour of PCEHR. We're just waiting to be officially told what we can do with it and when. Sadly no one at WVH can tell us.
0 # Concerned GP 2013-06-07 22:48
We were constantly pressured to have people in our practice. They have no knowledge and no ability to interact with patients. Patients who come to a surgery are sick, they don't want to be bullied in to making a decision about something even the sales agent also doesn't understand. And no one talked to our staff!! The assessment of our clinic staff is that these people are on a target or some kind of commission and that is the driver. Many of our patients are elderly, they don't have mobile phones and wouldn't know how to use a computer even if they have one. We know our patients and we should be given the latitude to decide who may benefit and who will not rather than some Health bureaucrat. This is the wrong approach and as far as our clinic can see is doing more harm than good. Canberra may be different but I doubt it.
0 # Sue E 2013-06-08 09:18
When we contacted Medicare Local about these people we were told they have no say about training, placement or even familiarisation of them in the PCEHR.

I concur with the earlier comments. In my estimation these people have zero PCEHR knowledge and that is dangerous because they are asking patients to sign up for something they themselves don't understand, so how can the patient make an informed decision?

My guess - and it is only a guess - is that these people are recruited as those charity collectors outside shopping centres are. Minimal training, minimal knowledge and a couldn't care less attitude that is reflected in their general demeanour and dress code. I mean how hard is it to iron a shirt to look presentable and professional?

PCEHR is going to make a big difference and is going to save us time (and money) BUT poorly informed sales people (likely to be on a commission or financial incentive) is NOT the way to do it.
0 # PCEHR Operations 2013-06-08 14:32
Good morning (10am, 8th June)

The Department of Health and Ageing (the Department) would like to advise that registrations performed via the Assisted Registration Tool for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system are currently impacted by a degradation of service within the PCEHR System. Registrations attempted at this time may encounter error messages such that the registration cannot be completed.

A resolution is being worked on as a priority and we will provide more information as it becomes available.

The Department apologises for any inconvenience this may have caused.

PCEHR Operations
0 # PCEHR Operations 2013-06-08 17:30
Good afternoon,

The Department of Health and Ageing (the Department) would like to advise that the degradation of service which has been impacting registrations performed via the Assisted Registration Tool for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system is now resolved as at 2:45pm AEST.

The Department apologises for any inconvenience this may have caused.


PCEHR Operations
0 # Steve Pepper 2013-10-17 12:21
Worked for Aspen till last month. Great job and a great project. Registered over 6000 in 20 weeks.

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