Medicare Local hubs to get $600,000 for PCEHR uptake

The Department of Health and Ageing has issued an invitation to apply (ITA) for funding to Medicare Locals to act as 'support hubs' to increase the adoption of the PCEHR.

The successful bidders will work with clusters of other Medicare Locals (MLs) to deliver training and advice to general practices, community pharmacies, allied health professionals and specific consumer groups on the eHealth records system.

The funding is part of a $50 million package announced by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek in May. A DoHA spokeswoman said funding will be provided to each ML, although she could not reveal exact amounts.

Those acting as hubs will receive extra money, expected to range between $450,000 and $600,000, according to Sharon McCarter, assistant secretary of DoHA's eHealth development and engagement branch. In a recent webinar hosted by the Australian Medicare Local Alliance (AML Alliance), Ms McCarter said the support hub and cluster structure will be announced on October 31. It is expected there will be between 12 and 16 Medicare Local hubs.

The DoHA spokeswoman said some of the funding for MLs “will be used to provide practical training and tools to GP practices and other healthcare providers to support eHealth adoption in the primary care sector. Medicare Locals will also build awareness and literacy amongst consumers.”

She said the hubs would support 'clusters' of other Medicare Locals in preparing for PCEHR adoption. “Clusters are expected to form in geographic areas with one ML hub supporting four to six MLs at a local level.”

Funding will also be provided to each of the 61 Medicare Locals to enable them to hire eHealth support officers, who will work with general practices. “This support will include ongoing training and advice and the development of local materials and messages,” she said.

The department has an expectation that Medicare Locals will staff the delivery of the program and "not contract with another body to deliver these services", Ms McCarter told the webinar.

She said four field advisors would be appointed to liaise between the AML Alliance and the support hubs, which would in turn support ML clusters working with clinicians and consumers. The field advisors will cover NSW and the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, Queensland, and WA, SA and the Northern Territory.

The field advisors will deliver training to the support hubs, who will then train MLs in their cluster to provide practice visits, training and communications for practitioners and consumers.

Ms McCarter said the program was designed to support primary care providers in achieving four successive levels of eHealth change and adoption in order to eventually achieve “meaningful use” of the PCEHR.

These tiers are general PCEHR awareness; GP software readiness, including the first four requirements of the eHealth Practice Incentives Program (ePIP); PCEHR adoption, in which shared health summaries are being uploaded and viewed; and meaningful use, in which the PCEHR is regularly accessed by providers, consumers and multiple health organisations and is being used for decision support.

Vlad Aleksandric, general manager of programs and performance development with the AML Alliance, said a series of learning and development workshops will be held throughout the country in late October and November, giving MLs an overview of the five requirements that general practices will need to qualify for the ePIP.

The requirements are integrating healthcare identifiers, secure messaging, using data records and clinical terming of diagnoses, electronic transfer of prescriptions to a prescription exchange service, and using PCEHR-compliant software.

Each ML will be required to submit a local change and adoption plan by November 23 and it is expected that the delivery of all cluster support hub services will be delivered by the end of September 2013.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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