DoH to include a million people in PCEHR opt-out trials
Up to a million people are set to be included in trial sites for the proposed opt-out model of the PCEHR, with trials set to kick off in July next year and a recommendation on what model works best made to government in 2017.
DoH special advisor for eHealth Paul Madden told a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra today that the department hoped to have the sites selected by September.
“The trial population that we are looking for across a minimum of two, maximum of five [trial sites] would be about a million people,” Mr Madden said.
“We want to get a spread that includes lots of people – individuals, lots of GPs, specialists, allied [health] and private and public hospitals, to get the whole connected community of healthcare providers for that community involved.”
As outlined in a discussion paper released last week, the trials will test the processes and public acceptance of an opt-out version of the national system, in which all citizens will be given an eHealth record unless they specifically choose to opt out of having one.
Set to start next year, the trials will involved a two-month information period for consumers during which they can choose to opt out. That will be followed by a six-week period in which “skeleton” records are created for those who have not opted out, and during which they can log in and set access controls.
After this, the records would be opened to healthcare providers to begin uploading documents for their patients. The system remains voluntary for healthcare provider organisations.
The trials have been funded as part of the $485 million allocated over four years to the ongoing operation and enhancement of the PCEHR, which is set to be renamed the My Health Record.
The funding will include a range of education and communication campaigns and training for healthcare providers, including online, self-directed training for GPs, a test platform so users can create a dummy record to try out the system, as well as face-to-face training if necessary.
Mr Madden said the funding also included money for “a heavy dose of communication” for individuals in the trial sites.
“We'd be looking to do that from early 2016, with the training starting around the same time for the healthcare providers,” he said.
The 2.25 million people who have already registered for a PCEHR under the opt-in model will carry on as usual. As well as trialling opt-out, the department will also be looking at innovative alternatives that continue with the opt-in method but that also boost participation.
Mr Madden also said incentives for GPs to use the system will be reviewed, with the department likely to follow another of the 2013 PCEHR review's recommendations that funding for chronic disease planning be tied to use of the PCEHR.
“The incentives will be paid as an entitlement to those who use the system to upload records on behalf of their most in-need patients, and they'd be the ones who have care plans,” Mr Madden told the hearing. “So we'd be looking for a shared health summary for a small proportion of their total patient base.”
Currently, general practices are paid an incentive through the eHealth Practice Incentive Program (ePIP), which requires them to install PCEHR-compliant software and other eHealth tools but does not mean that they actually have to use the system.
“We have that factored in with training commencing later in this calendar year, from October, with those new incentives looking to be in place in early 2016 for GPs across the country,” Mr Madden said.
He also clarified that of the $485 million allocated in the federal budget last month, $426m has been allocated to operating and enhancing the system as well as educational activities, but this is only over three years.
The other $50m or so is for the opt-out trials as well as changes to the governance arrangements underpinning the PCEHR.
This will mean the department will have to return to government in 2017 – with a recommendation on the way forward following the opt-out trials – for future funding of the system in the 2018/19 budget.
Posted in Australian eHealth