Financial support the missing link for aged care PCEHR uptake

The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) has urged policy-makers to consider financial incentives for providers to become PCEHR-ready, and said that the absence of key software functionalities has played a large part in the sector’s slow pace of change.

ACIITC chair Suri Ramanathan said eHealth measures such as electronic discharge summaries would be a boost to wider uptake of eHealth in the aged care sector, but financial support was also needed.

“For a pharmacist to push the enter button at the pharmacy, they receive a PBS dispense fee,” Mr Ramanathan said. “We love our pharmacists. They attach a value to the work they do.

“In terms of the GPs, they have come up with two ePIPs to ensure the GPs come on board with PCEHR and the elements of eHealth.

“We are much larger than both combined. Aged care is one of the largest industries in the country. We have 300,000 FTE employees.

“Facilities operate on a paper-thin margin, so for them to adopt change, they need a little bit of a hand – for the same reasons that exist for pharmacies and GPs.”

Mr Ramanathan said the council, which is organised under the auspices of industry organisations Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), believed that once discharge summaries are seamlessly integrated with aged care clinical management software, “our people will move”.

"But they need a clear signal that there’s financial support for the change to take place,” he said. “That’s the missing link.

“The second part of it is that the industry has to sign off on what is being delivered. There’s no point in having modifications that no one needs.”

He said HI Service integration, CDA document uploads and downloads and shared health summaries were all working well, and there now needed to be a focus on eReferrals, discharge summaries, integration with the National Prescription and Dispense Repository (NPDR) and secure messaging.

He estimated that work would take another year to finish.

Mr Ramanathan said the industry had had significant input into the discharge summary module. “It’s coming together,” he said. “We’ve always supported – and will continue to support – NEHTA’s technical team.

“And with the Department of Health and Ageing, if you look at the bigger picture, it’s moving forward, and we are thankful for that. When next called upon, we will partner with them to drive sector change and adoption.”

Mr Ramanathan said ACIITC viewed the industry’s successful integration with the PCEHR system as being a five- to 10-year process.

“Both sides of politics are supportive of the PCEHR,” he said. “The question will be who is doing what, and how they will deploy. That’s an issue whichever government [is in power] will have to work on. But the Department of Health and Ageing will remain, as we will.”

Mr Ramanathan said organisations needed to act now to ensure their software providers felt a market stimulus to move on making their products PCEHR-ready and that the solutions they delivered were based on NEHTA standards.

But he acknowledged that without an economic stimulus for change, industry lacked real impetus to pursue it.

“The message to providers is that PCEHR is a vital tool to get information to mitigate risk in aged care, but we are looking for that moment when there is policy support to adopt it.”

Regarding what is in the industry’s immediate sights, he said it had formed a rapid-response model in its plans outlined in the Pathfinder project, which was submitted to DoHA in August, 2012.

“We believe in rapid deployment of registration for, and adoption of, the PCEHR in aged care and for older Australians,” he said.

In January, ACIITC and members of NEHTA’s aged care software vendors panel met the remaining members of the Aged Care Industry Vendors’ Association to discuss the lessons learnt from modifying software as part of the Pathfinder project.

Meanwhile, ACIITC has also been busy preparing an IT roadmap for the industry, which has emanated from its CIO forum.

The document, which is informed by the council’s rubric of “dignity for older Australians”, has three objectives: to provide an overarching vision for IT in the industry; to encourage providers to synchronise their plans with the national vision; and to communicate industry needs better to external stakeholders.

At present, two of the major reforms proposed in the document are the creation of a website to link aged care IT professionals nationally and the establishment of “reference architecture” that will set industry standards for infrastructure, software, security, and other IT resources and processes, such as assistive technologies and home care.

Mr Ramanathan said the council wanted this architecture to be “very public and very powerful”.

The council expects to release the roadmap by the end of September.

Posted in Aged Care

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