PIP for PCEHR “not a requirement but a threat”: AMA

The Australian Medical Association has attacked the federal government's plans to reduce spending on the Practice Incentive Program (PIP), including the new requirement that practices participate in the PCEHR to receive payments under the eHealth PIP.

AMA president Steve Hambleton said the cuts were “a big hit to general practice and quality patient care”.

He particularly criticised the requirement linking PCEHR participation to the eHealth PIP, saying it was a direct threat to GPs.

“Last night, the government introduced a requirement that general practices must choose to participate in the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system if they are to continue receiving e-health PIP funding,” Dr Hambleton said in a statement.

“This is not a requirement, it is a threat, and it comes on top of the government’s failure to provide any new funding for the new clinical service that GPs are being asked to provide in helping patients prepare a shared health summary as part of the PCEHR.

“This double whammy represents a substantial roadblock to the effective implementation of the PCEHR and threatens Australia’s efforts to be a world leader in e-health.”

A DoHA spokeswoman told Pulse+IT that now that many practices have improved their IT capability, the focus of the eHealth PIP will change to supporting the PCEHR.

“Government support has helped more than 96 per cent of practices to get the IT they need for eHealth,” the spokeswoman said. “Australia's GP workforce is now the fifth most computerised in the world.

“We've supported GPs to develop their IT systems, and now we're supporting them to deliver eHealth to their patients through adopting the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record.”

Dr Hambleton also said the higher bar set for the cervical cancer screening and diabetes PIPs, and the removal of incentives for childhood immunisation, posed serious public health risks.

“The AMA will raise this issue with the Minister as a matter of urgency,” Dr Hambleton said. “Public health is far more important than a budget surplus.”

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) said it was disappointed that the budget failed to address most of the issues raised in its pre-budget submission.

RACGP president Claire Jackson said the college cautiously welcomed the $233.7 million investment in eHealth, including the $161 million to operate the PCEHR system for the next two years, but only “noted” the new requirement for GPs to participate in the PCEHR to receive the eHealth PIP.

“The College will be seeking further detail regarding individual general practices' payments and GP funding to assist in the smooth implementation of the PCEHR,” Professor Jackson said.

“The College is disappointed with the loss of the General Practice Immunisation PIP and we will be seeking clarification regarding changes to the Cervical Screening and Diabetes PIPs over the coming days."

She said the college would analyse the budget papers in detail and provide members with a briefing document in the next few days.

The Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) said the health budget was “extremely modest”, with chairman Emil Djakic repeating his call for Medicare Locals to be properly funded to promote the benefits of the PCEHR.

“Overall, this health budget is extremely modest even though there is spending on infrastructure projects like measures to support the adoption and steady roll-out of the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR),” Dr Djakic said.

“AGPN acknowledges that a shared health record will reap dividends for the community when this investment is translated through an uptake by patients and clinicians across Australia and [Medicare Locals] must be funded appropriately to promote the benefits of this initiative to patients, practices and the efficiency and effectiveness of the health system.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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