State by state: radiology reports through Queensland's Viewer

Queensland has had an added focus on telehealth since the announcement in last year's state budget that $30.9 million would be allocated over four years to set up a rural telehealth service.

In September, a parliamentary committee made a number of recommendations on how to improve telehealth provision, including that the Minister for Health, Lawrence Springborg, should lobby his federal counterpart to allow GPs to bill Medicare for direct video consultations with patients.

At the RMA conference, central Queensland GP Ewen McPhee backed the approach but also said he understood the federal health department's reluctance to make an MBS item number available. Dr McPhee said rural GPs had to show the evidence for the effectiveness of GP to patient telehealth before the department would consider it.

Paul Carroll, acting chief technology officer with Queensland's Health Information Services Agency, said Queensland had a number of telehealth end points for a number of years, but that take up had been slow due to a lack of incentives or support mechanisms.

“We still don't have a scheduling capability that is state-wide but some recent innovations have driven up utilisation, particularly around incentives,” Mr Carroll said. “We are now paying both ends of the call. There was 40 per cent growth last year so we are looking forward to continuing that.”

Mr Carroll concentrated on inter-provider and inter-facility information sharing in his presentation on the state and territory panel.

“One of the ways we have tried to support inter-facility care in Queensland is to create our mini-version of the PCEHR,” Mr Carroll said. “We call it The Viewer, and it is essentially an aggregation service for information from a number of other systems.

“Queensland is very passionate about the PCEHR – we think of it as the future of information exchange from the public system in particular and to various providers in the private sector.”

Mr Carroll said that rural GPs with hospital visiting rights could use The Viewer to access a range of patient information. From this week, radiology reports have also been added and are available in 122 hospitals.

“We still have six to go, up around Mt Isa and Mornington Island,” he said. “We've got medication profiles and that is unlimited, and every doctor in Queensland Health can see the PCEHR.”

In addition to being able to view the PCEHR, Queensland is sending information to it in the form of discharge summaries.

Mr Carroll said about nine per cent of discharge summaries created in Queensland hospitals are being sent to the PCEHR for patients who are registered, and public hospitals are sending around half of all discharge summaries electronically to GPs, a figure that he wants to improve.

“For a lot of GPs, we haven't taken the trouble to actually connect with you, so if you are a rural GP and you are not getting discharge summaries, there are opportunities for that to occur,” he said.

“Specialist letters are also going out electronically. From an inbound perspective, it is relatively limited but there are referrals inbound.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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