Senate committee queries delay over decision on PCEHR review
Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale has questioned the federal government's delay in responding to the recommendations of the Royle review into the PCEHR, saying he understood momentum for the system had stalled and GPs had gone cold.
Department of Health officials told a Senate Estimates community affairs committee hearing in Canberra yesterday that the government had yet to respond to the recommendations of the Royle review, which was completed in December 2013 and released publicly by former health minister Peter Dutton in May 2014.
Asked for an update on progress on the system, the secretary of the Department of Health, Martin Bowles, said a decision on the recommendations of the Royle review, whether there would be ongoing funding for the PCEHR and whether the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) would be closed was still before government.
Senator Di Natale said he was “waiting with bated breath” for a resolution to the future of the PCEHR, which he described as an important reform.
“What was Mr Dutton doing for all of the time he was health minister?” he said. “Seems like he was sitting on a lot of reports. You've got to wonder.”
For the first time, the department also released figures on how many healthcare practitioners were using the PCEHR. DoH first assistant secretary for eHealth Linda Powell said there were 10,721 individual practitioners registered to use it from 7645 healthcare provider organisations.
Senator Di Natale asked the department to provide figures on how many individual practitioners and organisations were registered out of the total number that would be eligible. The department took the question on notice.
“The sense that I get is that momentum has completely stalled in this, that GPs have gone cold on it, there hasn't been much progress,” he said. “I'm asking because I think it is important, I think it's a really important reform. Is that consistent with what you are seeing? Are the number of clinicians who are actually accessing the PCEHR – has that plateaued?”
Ms Powell said the department was “finding that the number of documents that are loaded into the system continues on a slow but steadily upward trend”.
Ms Powell provided a breakdown of where funds from the $140 million provided in the 2014-15 budget were allocated. $82m went to DoH to operate the system, $21.8m went to the Department of Human Services, and $2.3m to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The federal government's contribution to NEHTA for the year was $34.4m.
She said the PCEHR cost $233m to initially establish, with funding for eHealth over the four-year period between 2012-13 and 2015-16 totalling $538m.
Ms Powell also said that $28 million had been set aside to operate the PCEHR beyond the end of this financial year. However, Mr Bowles said any decision on further funding was still with the government.
Senator Di Natale voiced his concern over the government's delay. “We had an announcement in 2013 that there would be a review, we spent six months hanging around for the outcome of that review, we got the review half way through the year, we are now coming into March…” he said. “This is supposed to be the thing that is going to take healthcare into the 21st century and beyond, and we still don't know what we are doing with it?”
Health CIO Paul Madden said the department had carried out consultations in 2014 on the recommendations of the Royle review. “The outcomes of that consultation have been provided as input to the decision for the government, which they need to decide on,” he said.
Posted in Australian eHealth