Govt yet to commit to releasing PCEHR review

The Department of Health (DoH) has confirmed it has received a copy of the Royle review into the PCEHR, but the government has not committed to releasing it publicly.

In a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra yesterday, Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash could not answer a question on whether it would be released publicly. Senator Nash told the Senate community affairs legislation committee that she would take the question on notice.

Last week, Pulse+IT lodged a freedom of information (FOI) request for access to the full text of the review.

Health Minister Peter Dutton, who ordered the review in early November last year, announced on December 20 that he had received the panel's findings. Technology news website Delimiter then submitted an FOI request for the review to the department on January 6, which was subsequently rejected.

Linda Powell, first assistant secretary for the eHealth policy, change and adoption division, told Senate Estimates last night that the department did not have a copy at the time the FOI was lodged. “It was not provided because the department did not have the report on that date,” Ms Powell said.

DoH secretary Jane Halton told the committee that since the department had received a copy, “there have been ongoing discussions with the minister in relation to it”. Ms Halton said she could not recall the date on which it was received.

“The review was provided to the minister first actually and once we’ve received it, we have had discussions with the minister about it,” Ms Halton said. “I personally have.”

PCEHR facts and figures

DoH also revealed up-to-date numbers on consumer registrations for the PCEHR and how many clinical documents have been uploaded.

Ms Powell said that as of yesterday, 1,431,097 consumers had registered, spread evenly throughout the states and territories (see table below). There have been 19,227 discharge summaries uploaded, and 15,544 shared health summaries.

There were also 32,979 consumer-entered health summaries and over 11,000 consumer notes, she said.

DoH deputy secretary Paul Madden said there were also 89,000 documents uploaded for dispensed drugs, presumably through the National Prescription and Dispense Repository (NPDR). General practice software vendors are now releasing a view of the NPDR through their clinical software.

Mr Madden also said there were 155 public hospitals connected to the PCEHR, up from 56 late last year. “The plans to get the public hospitals connected was through an agreement between all of the states and territories and NEHTA,” Mr Madden said.

“Each of those are at different levels of development … and have plans – all except the Northern Territory and Victoria – to be connected by March this year. They are all coming to fruition now. The Northern Territory is still in the future and Victoria only has a couple of hospitals connecting rather than the whole state.”

The Northern Territory is currently going through a process of transitioning its My eHealth Record (MeHR) to the national system, which will add about 70,000 extra people to the system along with tens of thousands of actual clinical documents. Victoria is leaving decisions on how and when to connect to the system to its local health districts.

Ms Powell said consumer registration promotion had predominantly been done through Medicare Locals and state hospitals, with hospitals becoming more active recently as they begin to connect and upload discharge summaries. Hospitals are encouraging people to sign up when they are admitted to hospital or as part of their pre-admission procedures, she said.

Ms Halton said the department was seeing three or four thousand registrations a day, which she also attributed to state hospitals starting to connect.

Funding for the operation of the PCEHR runs out on June 30. Senator Nash would not be drawn on whether further funding was planned, saying it was under consideration.

Consumer PCEHR registrations by state
State or territoryTotal
South Australia155,731
Western Australia117,348
Northern Territory19,326

Posted in Australian eHealth

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