PCEHR registrations hit 250,000 as hospitals come online

Consumer registrations for the PCEHR have reached a landmark figure of 250,000, with 10,000 people signing up in one day this week, according to the Department of Health and Ageing.

DoHA representatives told a Senate Estimates committee hearing in Canberra last night that while reaching the forecast figure of 500,000 by June 30 might be “a bit of a stretch”, the figure was still in sight as registrations begin to grow rapidly.

The committee also heard that the four public hospitals in Tasmania – Royal Hobart, Launceston General, North West Regional and Mersey Community – will all be able to interact with the PCEHR by the end of June.

DoHA deputy secretary Rosemary Huxtable told the committee that NEHTA was managing a rapid integration project to support the states and territories to be able to upload discharge summaries to the PCEHR.

“[Calvary Hospital] in the ACT and St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, they are able to upload discharge summaries, and in the next little while, the rest of the calendar year, most states and territories will be able to do that either across the whole state or from a number of hospitals,” Ms Huxtable said.

NEHTA CEO Peter Fleming said that the four Tasmanian hospitals are on schedule to be on the PCEHR system, in terms of using the HI Service and uploading discharge summaries, by the end of this month.

Ms Huxtable said added functionality, enabling GP software to access the PCEHR and assisted registration had all helped to improve take-up of the system.

“[A] combination of all of those factors means we have begun to see growth now in registrations,” Ms Huxtable said. “Every day that is now growing, to the extent that [on Tuesday] I think we had 10,000 registrations, the highest number we've had.”

Ms Huxtable said she believed that the 500,000 figure was still in sight. “If we go back to [2012-2013], we had an expectation that we would through the eHealth sites have people at a stage of readiness and awareness at that point, but the reality is that the development, the underpinning work we needed to do in a technical sense, took time, and the eHealth sites weren't as far advanced as we expected them to be for that July start.

“The way we are going now, if you project through that 10,000 a day … while 500,000 might be a stretch in that regard, I think we are heading in the right direction.”

She said that as of Tuesday, 1928 shared health summaries had been uploaded, along with 446 discharge summaries. Healthcare organisations registered for an HPI-O had reached 3636, while 4319 practitioners were authorised to access the system.

DoHA's chief information and knowledge officer, Paul Madden, told the committee that in the aged care sector, work was continuing with aged care software vendors to get their systems connected.

“That will give us access to 75 per cent of aged care residents through the software they are using,” Mr Madden said.

Of the people currently registered, 4.6 per cent were over the age of 80 and 10.8 per cent were aged between 70 and 79, he said.

People aged between 60 and 69 were the largest age group registered, making up 15.7 per cent of all registrations.

Earlier, Ms Huxtable told the committee that funding arrangements for the PCEHR and for NEHTA beyond July 2014 were currently being discussed.

“We are currently working on a business case in respect of future eHealth funding with the states and territories,” she said. “That business case is being managed under the auspice of the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council, to enable the government to consider funding arrangements from July 2014, both for the PCEHR and for the National E-Health Transition Authority.

“There will be ongoing costs associated with the PCEHR itself – the operation of the PCEHR system. As to additional costs, there has been work done in NEHTA around the development of specifications and standards, and the business case itself will work out all of the detailed elements for future funding.”

Ms Huxtable confirmed that initial funding for the PCEHR in 2010 was $466 million, with a second tranche of $234 million over two years allocated in 2012, of which $161m was for operating the system. This brings the total to $700 million, not $1 billion as has been claimed.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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