September the month for PCEHR-enabled GP software

The federal government is expecting the roll out of GP desktop software with the capability to upload shared health summaries to the PCEHR to commence in September.

Speaking at a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra last night, the deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA), Rosemary Huxtable, confirmed that the only functionality available on the launch date of July 1 will be the ability for consumers to register for a PCEHR, either by telephone or in person at a Medicare shopfront.

Ms Huxtable said an online registration capacity was being worked on but it may not be available from 1 July. For practitioners, the ability to upload clinical documents to a patient's PCEHR will not begin to be available until some time in September.

“From day one, the focus is very much on consumer registration, so it will be the capacity of consumers to ring and register,” Ms Huxtable said. “There will be an online registration function which we are pushing very hard to have available from 1 July but it may come some weeks after that. Once a consumer has registered they will be able to through into the consumer portal and put information into their record … That is the first tranche of functionality.

“The next tranche of functionality is around provider registration and the capacity for providers to upload information, and that will be in a few months of 1 July. The GP software specification issue [which delayed testing earlier this year] means it is more likely to be September.”

She said other information held by the Department of Human Services such as MBS and PBS information, immunisation status and organ donor registration, will also be available for consumers to view in the months after 1 July.

The CEO of the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), Peter Fleming, said the members of the GP software vendors panel are currently working through the second release of specifications and are in testing.

“There are a group of vendors who are aiming to be ready for July, and also over and above the GP desktop panel, two companion tools that are also aiming to be ready,” Mr Fleming said. “Obviously they are in test mode and once they are ready it has to go through a process so that will take a little while, but we are working very strongly on those tools. [The] GP desktop panel... [is] working to reflect all of the specifications in the package. Once that is done it goes to a national rollout.”

DoHA secretary Jane Halton had earlier told the hearing that the fact the legislation enabling the PCEHR had not yet passed the Senate will not necessarily have an effect on the rollout from July 1.

“Essentially, the legislation is the cornerstone for the rollout, but I think [Health Minister Tanya Plibersek] and I have been at pains to say publicly, the first of July is the beginning; it is not the end point,” Ms Halton said.

“We don't expect everyone to be registered on that day, we don't expect the capability to be available on that date. Is it a terminal problem if the legislation doesn't pass? No, it's not, but essentially would we like it to pass? Well, clearly but as is always the case with legislation in the two chambers, we do not control it.”

Mr Fleming said NEHTA and DoHA were expecting a slow rollout. “The people we will be dealing with first are those who are in our Wave sites, and specifically the Wave 1 sites,” he said. “As part of the process, come July first, when national infrastructure is available, they will then start the process of migrating across to that.

“Through the Wave sites, we'll be looking to implement it as quickly as possible. There are three Wave 1 sites, they cover East Melbourne, the Hunter and the Brisbane area. From memory the total population catchment of that group … is about 1.6 million people. We have targets in terms of how many practitioners will have access and how many consumers.”

Ms Huxtable said that once a consumer is registered they will be able to go to a consumer portal and put their own information into the record. “There is also the capacity for them to put in their allergies or adverse reactions, things like complementary medicines, so that is information they can put into the record.

“The capacity for the record to grow to include the upload of clinical information from a GP does relate to other functions that will come on stream thereafter, so it is an evolutionary rollout. The first of those relate to provider registration and the capacity of providers to upload records.

“The capacity to have that happen more broadly outside the Wave sites, we are probably looking at about September – that's when the GP software rollout will occur, that's the current plan. So then you get to the point where records are populated with shared health summaries, event summaries and the like, and then over time there is a shared function that is added around medication management. It is an evolutionary process.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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