$8m for pathology and diagnostic imaging to be added to PCEHR

Federal Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek has announced the government will spend $8 million to enable pathology results and diagnostic reports to be added to the national PCEHR system, with diagnostic images to come online in future.

Speaking at the Health Informatics Conference (HIC 2013) in Adelaide today, Ms Plibersek said the money would go towards configuring desktop software and developing specifications to allow pathology and radiology practices to send results and reports to the patient's PCEHR as well as to their GP.

“The $8 million will be for the changes that we need to make to desktop software and other software that they will need,” she said. “It will develop the specifications that we need so that we are all working on the same set of specifications, and it will be for software providers, vendors and others to change the software to make this possible, and to ensure that all of the software is interoperable and consistent.”

She said the change to private pathology and radiology practices would be “very minimal”.

“A lot of this information is already emailed to the doctor,” she said. “The difference is that instead of individual emails being sent here and there, what you will have is a summary of the all of the information for the patient available in one location.

“There's not actually a lot of extra work for the diagnostic imaging or pathology companies – it is simply what we can do with that information. Instead of having it scattered in 50 inboxes in different parts of the system, we have all of that information attached to the one person's medical record.”

As reported by Pulse+IT earlier this year, the private pathology industry has already developed specifications in association with NEHTA to allow pathology reports to be sent to the PCEHR, and more importantly a system has been designed so that cumulative reports are also able to be integrated into the system.

A standstill over funding was the last barrier to getting the private sector on board. The public pathology sector and diagnostic imaging is seen as more technically difficult and will take longer to be included in the national program.

Ms Plibersek said having test results and x-rays in the PCEHR would be of great benefit not only to clinicians but to patients who won't have to carry around old x-rays or sit through repeated blood tests.

She also announced that 520,000 people had registered for the PCEHR, and 7000 were signing up on average per day.

Asked how she planned to encourage the large group of GPs who are still very reluctant to take part in the system, she said there are some incredibly enthusiastic GPs who are doing a lot of the legwork.

“The doctors who are using it love it, and they are the strongest and the best advocates,” she said.

“In recent years we have been building the foundations and rolling out the PCEHR and we've now got 520,000 Australians signed up. We have exceeded our expectations – we hoped to have half a million people signed up by the middle of the year and we have already gone beyond that.

"We've around 7000 Australians every day signing up for their PCEHR and what they are telling me is that for them, the benefit is that any doctor they see will have their medical history.

“If they are admitted to emergency the doctor can very quickly look up any medications that the patient is on, any health events. It can quite literally save lives.

“By adding diagnostic imaging and pathology results, this information is just that much richer information is available to the doctor, but of course patients also benefit by having more information about their own health.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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