ITAC 2015: Connection on the cards for My Aged Care and My Health Record

Plans to link the My Aged Care central client record with the My Health Record (MyHR, formerly PCEHR) will be “ratcheted up” following the transfer of the aged care portfolio back to the federal Department of Health, an aged care bureaucrat says.

Fiona Buffinton, group manager of the access, quality and compliance group at the Department of Social Services (DSS), told the Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) conference this week that she, along with the rest of DSS's aged care section, are in the process of moving back to DoH and she expected to see more focus on plans to link the two systems.

Aged care was separated from the former Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) after the 2013 election and made part of DSS. Following the ministerial reshuffle after Malcolm Turnbull deposed former prime minister Tony Abbott in September, Health Minister Sussan Ley successfully lobbied for aged care to return to its traditional home.

Ms Buffinton said the aged care sector could expect to see a long-term strategy developed next year to build on the move to consumer-directed care (CDC) first introduced as part of the former Labor government's landmark Living Longer Living Better (LLLB) reforms. This will include a vision for the My Aged Care system and its links to MyHR.

“Living Longer Living Better gave a five-year vision, which means 2016 was as far forward as we were looking,” Ms Buffinton said.

“The government has been talking with the sector over the last couple of months, leading into 2016, of what is next, what is the next long-term view. Originally we were looking at the next five years but … the government doesn't just dole out [residential aged care] places now. It is a consumer-directed world and it is far more of a marketplace.

“To have more certainty we need more of a 10-year vision and the government has heard that. In 2016, you will be hearing more about that vision of up to 2025.”

A major part of the LLLB policy, the My Aged Care system was designed to be a one-stop shop for all of the needs of older people moving into the Commonwealth-funded aged care system as well as some services provided by the private sector.

The My Aged Care website went live initially with basic information on options for accessing assistance for older people as well as details of residential aged care facilities and home care service providers.

Accommodation prices were added last year, and on July 1 this year, the system went live with a new central client record and electronic assessments and referrals.

However, things did not go smoothly, with a backlog of referrals jamming the system and some GPs infuriated by the inability to make an electronic referral directly from their desktop software.

Special arrangements have been made to allow healthcare providers to continue to use fax machines for referrals for the time being, although there have always been plans to digitise the process through some sort of eForm.

“On the first of July with My Aged Care I got this inundation of correspondence from the college of general practitioners and others saying why can't my desktop talk to My Aged Care,” Ms Buffinton said.

“Sometimes it is the economic problem of unlimited wants and finite resources. That's not to say we don't believe it will happen, but it is a case that it wasn't going to happen on the first of July.”

Ms Buffinton said that when DoHA began to build My Aged Care, the plan was to be open to connectivity with the PCEHR. The aged care sector has lobbied hard in favour of connecting the two.

“[LLLB] outlined a future direction of My Aged Care, starting off with quite a static information model,” she said. “When we started to build My Aged Care, we were building it to be open to connectivity with the eHealth record, which was then an opt-in model.

“Since the government has formally brought us back into the Department of Health in the past month, that as a priority has just got ratcheted up my priority order, how in fact My Aged Care will link with the eHealth record.”

Ms Buffinton outlined how CDC meant that the aged care system was now more of a "marketplace", where older people and their families could choose which services to access based on their needs. She said My Aged Care was a good starting point to begin building this marketplace because of the large volumes of transactions it now carries.

“We have to make sure that we grow a critical mass to attract users and we are aware of the issue of connectivity,” she said. “We need connectivity in terms of the business systems we use to engage with providers, in terms of synchronisation between the client record and service providers, but also the synchronisation of referral data and rostering systems of our assessment organisations.

“Our website has about 150,000 visitors each month and by the end of November we are going to have more than 100,000 consumers registered for a client record. Each month we have had more than 150 visitors to the assessor and provider portals. It is probably a good base to start with.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: PCEHR, My Aged Care, MyHR, ManageMyHealth

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