PCEHR participation agreement under discussion

Representatives of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) are meeting with the Department of Health and Ageing in Canberra today to find a solution to the hotly disputed terms and conditions for healthcare provider participation in the PCEHR.

The terms and conditions are in their third revision since being released to provider organisations in April. The AMA in particular had come out against the draft, saying the proposed registration conditions would place “extraordinary obligations” on healthcare provider organisations for matters that are largely out of their control.

AMA general secretary Francis Sullivan said at the time that “as they currently stand, the conditions of registration will deter every medical practice in Australia from participating in the PCEHR system”.

It is understood the AMA believed that the provisions would see healthcare providers liable for failures and breaches of the PCEHR and would allow DoHA officers to enter practices and search records in cases where breaches have occurred.

A DoHA spokeswoman said at the time that this was not true, and that the agreement would not impose unfair or extraordinary obligations on providers.

“Terms and conditions are a normal feature many government and private sector programs and give the participants certainty about their roles, responsibilities and rights,” she said.

In a newsletter to members last Friday, RACGP president Claire Jackson said representatives will attend the meeting to discuss the agreement.

“This agreement when finalised, would need to be signed by all practices participating in the PCEHR,” Professor Jackson said. “The RACGP has been arguing strongly that the contractual agreements to engage with PCEHR need to be explicit in detailing the obligations of all parties, to instil confidence that the agreement will protect the interests of GPs.”

Professor Jackson also said she and RACGP CEO Zena Burgess had met with the Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, last week to brief her on member feedback in relation to the PCEHR.

She said they had “frankly briefed” the minister on “heightened member concern regarding lack of practice level support facing the majority of practices, and current uncertainties regarding much of the PCEHR roll out”.

“The minister re-emphasised her commitment to working closely with the college to address GPs' concerns and asked for patience and time to find solutions,” Professor Jackson said.

Also under discussion was the confused issue of MBS item numbers when creating or adding to a shared health summary, inadequate support on the ground for most practices seeking to successfully implement the PCEHR, and issues of data governance and safety.

Regarding the eHealth practice incentive payment (PIP), 
eligibility for which will now require participation in the PCEHR, Professor Jackson said Ms Plibersek had reiterated that the payment would be linked to the technical capability of individual practices and not tied to the production of PCEHRs.

“The minister resolved to engage in ongoing meaningful consultation with the RACGP to ensure the design of the new eHealth PIP – commencing in February 2013 – meets the needs and expectations held by GPs and practice teams,” she said.

“We also took the opportunity with the minister to raise ongoing concerns regarding costs and responsibilities for our sector.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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