Coalition to do a stocktake on the PCEHR

A Coalition government would do a “stocktake” on the PCEHR system should it win this year's election to determine its level of functionality and what if anything should be done to improve it in future.

Opposition spokesman for primary care, Andrew Southcott, said that while the Coalition agrees with eHealth in principle and voted to support the passage of the Individual Healthcare Identifiers legislation and the PCEHR, it would wait until after the election to consider any changes, if necessary.

Dr Southcott said the Coalition had not considered any changes to the Practice Incentives Program, including the ePIP, but confirmed that if it wins government, it would not continue with the current structure of Medicare Locals.

“[The PCEHR] is still a moving feast,” Dr Southcott said. “Our plan is to do a stocktake when we come into government and determine what is the exact status of the project.

“Our position is that the government had a number of reports from Deloitte and Booz which identified a national eHealth strategy and recommended that the government focus on quick wins like electronic prescriptions and discharge summaries, and I strongly believe that this is what they should have done.

"The strategy that was outlined back in 2008 was for a gradual, staged approach and with ePrescriptions and discharge summaries you would have had something that clinicians would have found very useful and would have had a high take up.”

Dr Southcott repeated the claim that almost a billion dollars had been spent on the PCEHR, first made in The Australian last year. The Minister for Health and Ageing, Tanya Plibersek, has disputed this figure in Parliament, saying the newspaper had double-counted some of its figures.

Ms Plibersek told Parliament last year that the PCEHR allocation was $467 million over two years. An extra $233 million over three years was allocated in the May 2012 budget, bringing the total to $700 million. NEHTA also receives additional funding that is separate to the PCEHR system.

Dr Southcott said the Coalition had established NEHTA and supported the principle of having a standards-setting body.

“If you look at the history in this area, we were able when we were last in government to get GPs to computerise very quickly, and we do have high rates of computerisation in general practice. Specialists and allied health less so, but we were able to do that in a space of a few years – get them to computerise.

“And what's happened over the last decade is practice management software has become more sophisticated, it is really incorporated in the way the practice is run. That's the pattern – if clinicians find it useful, they will take it up. I think the ePrescriptions and discharge summaries were obvious areas.

“The PCEHR, where it is, we are close to a billion dollars spent on it, the registrations are well below what was even forecast in last year's budget. The major speeches I have given on this with the IHI legislation and the PCEHR legislation outlined our general position, which is that we support eHealth in principle.

“We supported the IHI because that's a good idea and is one of the building blocks, and we do support eHealth in principle, but we do feel that with the PCEHR, the government has gone down a high-risk track and this is just another project which has been mismanaged, and what we see now with the PCEHR it is just another project where they have over-promised and and under-delivered.

"Most of the money is already gone, so what we will do is a stocktake when we come into government to determine the functionality of the PCEHR."

Dr Southcott said he could not put any figure on potential eHealth investment, saying the Coalition would wait until after the May budget to release its policies.

“It's the first of February today, and the election is on the 14th of September, and we still have a budget between now and then, so this is not the final word on what our priorities will be in eHealth,” he said.

“Our policies are likely to be released after the May budget when we've got an appreciation of the overall financial position of the government.”

He said any changes to the Practice Incentives Program, including the ePIP, were not something that the Coalition had considered. “I do know the RACGP and the Medicare Locals are doing a lot to make sure that their practices are aware of [the ePIP] and the new requirements, but it's not something that we've considered.”

He also confirmed that Medicare Locals would be changed should the Coalition win the election.

“We've said that we won't continue with the structure of Medicare Locals but we do see the importance of a coordinating role in primary care,” he said. “It is something we are consulting on and we are seeking feedback from lots of different stakeholders.”

Posted in Australian eHealth


0 # A/prof Terry Hanann 2013-02-01 23:35
The evidence points to real and upcoming failures of the PCEHR and associated technologies (what measures of success are there?). Sure it is important that the Coalition do a "stocktake" on existing projects but what would be more important is how "their experts" define and see eHealth. Who in the opposition have done eHealth implementations . Let them define their concepts and plans and see if they fit conventional eHealth wisdom, knowledge and practical expereince. If not their eHealth projects are guaranteed to fail.
0 # David Margan 2013-02-05 11:57
As someone who has had a major role in trying to scrutinise the implementation of a national E-Health system by the National E-Health Transition Authority in my work with Senator Sue Boyce, I can only heartily agree with Dr Southcott. A lot of taxpayers money has been spent over the last five years and we have little to show for it. There has been an almost total lack of transparency and accountability over this time. We have a right to know with certainity what has happenned with all that money and given the importance of of a national E-health system in providing better and more cost effective healthcare we need to be sure its being done, and done intelligently. A pause, a stocktake is absolutely needed to make sure commonsense drives this system and not politics.

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