Budget 2015: $485 million to reboot PCEHR, NEHTA to go
The federal government will stump up $485 million to “reboot” the PCEHR in next week's budget and will dissolve the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA).
In a statement released on Sunday, federal Health Minister Sussan Ley also announced that the operation of the PCEHR – now to be renamed the myHealth record – will transfer from the Department of Health to a new Australian Commission for eHealth from July 2016, and that an opt-out model will be trialled.
These options were all recommended by the Royle review into the PCEHR, carried out in late 2013.
Ms Ley said a functioning national electronic medical records system was essential to ensure doctors, nurses and pharmacists across the country had instant access to the information needed to treat patients safely and efficiently without having to “gamble on unknowns” in their medical history.
“As patients, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to attend another GP surgery because we were out-of-town or couldn’t get an appointment with our regular doctor,” she said. “It can be a time consuming and often frustrating experience for patients and doctors alike.
“And as a parent of three children, I recognise the benefits of having your family’s personal health information safely stored and accessible to healthcare providers. In the case of allergic reactions or medicine emergencies, having fast access to critical health data could be a matter of life or death.
“In this modern world where technology makes information sharing boundless, there’s no excuse for Australia not to have a functioning national eHealth system and that’s what the Abbott government’s revamped myHealth Record aims to achieve.”
Ms Ley said the government was committed to implementing the key recommendations from the Royle review.
She blamed the decision by the Labor government to choose an opt-in system for the lack of take-up of the PCEHR, despite this being a decision that was supported by the Coalition when in opposition.
“We’re committed to delivering strong primary care system for Australians and all of the feedback I’ve received from doctors and patients throughout my recent Medicare consultations is that a functioning national eHealth system is critical to achieving this," Ms Ley said.
“Doctors have indicated they’re much more likely to use the system if all their patients have a record.
“We also need full coverage if we’re to cut down on inefficiencies created by not having one seamless records system, such as double ups with testing, prescriptions and other procedures.”
While she gave no details, she committed to trialling an opt-out model, with clinicians receiving "hands-on training and follow-up support" to build their confidence and understanding in using the system.
She also committed to making the system more user-friendly to better reflect the needs of healthcare professionals, “including better alignment with existing clinical workflows within practices, and to ensure additional information such as current medications lists, and known adverse drug interactions are easily identified by practitioners”.
In line with the review's recommendations, NEHTA will be replaced with the Australian Commission for eHealth from July 2016, with a taskforce established to manage the transition between the two.
The PCEHR operations and associated governance arrangements will also transition from the Department of Health to the new commission, with the eHealth policy function remaining with the department, she said.
“These governance changes have been discussed with and are supported by states and territories, and will improve the accountability and transparency of arrangements,” Ms Ley said.
Consumers Health Forum (CHF) CEO Leanne Wells welcomed the decision to go with an opt-out policy.
“CHF has long held the view that the most effective way of getting such a scheme rolled out was to implement it on an opt out basis,” Ms Wells said. “This will mean everybody will get registered unless they actively oppose signing on. The current opt in approach has proved very slow to take hold.
“All health consumers deserve the benefits that information technology can offer their health care, benefits that are now taken for granted in other sensitive areas like personal banking.
“An opt out approach will require active leadership from the minister, an open and transparent process and a public education campaign to ensure community and clinician confidence in the security and reliability of the scheme.”
Posted in Australian eHealth