Allied health software vendor suspends PCEHR integration

Allied health software specialist myPractice has decided to suspend any further work on integrating with the PCEHR until it becomes much more clear that the system is going to be of value and is wanted by its customers.

myPractice founder and developer Glen Germaine said his company had been enthusiastic about integrating with the Healthcare Identifier (HI) Service and the PCEHR when first approached in late 2012 by NEHTA to begin reconfiguring the software for the new system, but was dismayed by the cost of the integration, in particular the testing fees charged for accreditation.

Mr Germaine said there were real doubts about a return on his investment, which has so far been in the range of $25,000. An extra $8000 to $10,000 in testing fees – which he was not informed about before beginning the work – and a noticeable tailing off of interest in the system from customers means he will not continue to invest until the role of allied health in the system becomes “crystal clear”.

“myPractice has served the allied health sector for almost nine years now and when we were approached by NEHTA to be one of the first allied health software vendors to integrate with the HI system and PCEHR, we jumped at it,” Mr Germaine said.

“2012 was frustrating as the focus was on primary care and allied health took a back seat. However, after phone conferences with NEHTA in late 2012 and early 2013 we felt the time was right to move forward.

“This decision was based on the plans NEHTA had in regards to promoting the PCEHR in the allied health sector and also the increased interest we had from both existing and potential customers. We felt confident at that stage that our investment in integration would be worthwhile.”

Mr Germaine said that by April this year, interest was still high so the company engaged an additional developer to work on the project. By September, myPractice was well down the path and began investigating integration testing.

“This was where the first bomb hit us,” he said. “In addition to investing over $25,000 in development, we were advised that we would be up for $8-10,000 in testing fees to get accredited to access the production HI system. NEHTA acknowledged that there had been an oversight and we should have been advised of this earlier. Needless to say it was not a happy day.”

Mr Germaine said he serious issues with the situation. Not being told of the additional costs up front was the big concern, especially as, like many other allied health software vendors, the company is a small one focusing on niche markets.

“[We] do not charge thousands for our software,” he said. “A hit of $8-10,000 is not insignificant.”

He also said the testing process itself was over-priced for what is involved. “There are only two testing locations and they charge for multiple days ‘set up', yet we provide the testing environment. They charge for multiple days of testing and report writing, and the report is essentially a template that they drop a 'pass/fail’ value into.”

He said a further concern was the “significant decline” in the number of allied health professionals asking the company about PCEHR integration between June and October this year.

“There was also a reduction in the activity by DoHA and NEHTA in support of the PCEHR due to the looming election. Then of course the new minister called for the review on the PCEHR that is currently underway, throwing further doubt on any ROI.”

He said these factors led him to meet with NEHTA in Sydney in early November, where he advised it that he was halting all PCEHR work and would not be proceeding with the HI Service testing until the path for allied health was made clear.

“They of course would like us to continue, the argument being that we are in a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario at present,” he said. “They believe the lack of interest is because allied health software vendors have not yet integrated with the PCEHR, and allied health vendors have not integrated because of the lack of interest.

“The problem from our perspective is that there are no incentives for anyone in the allied health industry. Allied health professionals have not been afforded the same consideration as GPs when it comes to upgrading their software and software vendors have had no help from the government to cover the costs involved in integration or testing.

“We were initially willing to take the chance that if we got our product out there, that the interest generated by DoHA and NEHTA and the value of the system to professionals would mean we would recoup our costs. But with doubts in the minds of allied health professionals as to the efficacy and value of the PCEHR to them, and doubts about what will come of the current review, I now have little faith that this will happen.”

Mr Germaine said the company had moved its focus to tightening integration with secure messaging providers such as Argus, ReferralNet and HealthLink in regards to eReferrals, and it “won’t be re-visiting PCEHR until it is crystal clear that the system is going to be of value and is wanted by our customers”.

Pulse+IT understands from some other software vendors that there are concerns that there might be an annual cost to retain certification for the PCEHR. Mr Germaine said he doubted software would have to be re-tested for the HI Service, and had segregated the HI Service code into a separate component so it remains untouched by other updates to the product.

“Based on our correspondence with the testing facilities, we believe that this is acceptable, but I don't have anything in writing from NEHTA or Medicare to confirm it,” he said.

John (Yianni) Serpanos, CEO of allied health software vendor coreplus, said he intended to continue with his company's PCEHR integration.

“The markets we serve are part of the national eHealth agenda, and we see it as essential to conform to the national standards,” he said.

“The PCEHR infrastructure that has been put in place will theoretically be of real benefit to all Australians, so we need to be part of that. We understand that there is debate on where the PCEHR is at now and where it needs to go, but we see it as very important so we will be continuing with our plans.”

In October, coreplus appointed former Zedmed development manager Peter Davies to help manage its plans for compliance with the PCEHR.

“What this flags for our business is that even though we focus on allied health, we understand that things like secure messaging and PCEHR integration, although not mandated right now, are important to an allied health provider,” Mr Serpanos told Pulse+IT at the time.

“We are bringing forward our plans in relation to the PCEHR and Peter represents that initiative being dedicated as opposed to the mixture of resources that we've had on it up until now.”

Posted in Allied Health

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