RACGP to use 4th Edition Standards to drive e-health

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is currently developing the fourth iteration of its standards for General Practice, flagging an intention to use the revised requirements to increase the utilisation of information technology in general practices.

While the current 3rd Edition Standards contain criterion that relate to information technology, the 4th Edition Standards are purported to contain more stringent and specific requirements that fall under the “e-health” banner.

The RACGP Standards for General Practices is the benchmark against which general practices are surveyed for accreditation. Two organisations, AGPAL and GPA Accreditation Plus, engage both GP and non-GP surveyors to assess practice compliance with the standards every three years.

According to the RACGP, around 80 per cent of Australian general practices are formally accredited against the RACGP Standards, a milestone that enables practice owners to access lucrative Practice Incentive Program (PIP) payments, some of which are devoted to e-health initiatives.

The latest revision of the then IT/IM (now e-health) PIP requirements drew criticism from within the medical software industry, with representatives describing them as a wasted opportunity that did little to advance the utilisation of information technology in medical practices. These comments were made in reference to the situation where practices were effectively paid to “adopt” secure messaging solutions that they were already using, and to register for — but not necessarily use — individual PKI certificates issued by Medicare Australia. Compounding the controversy, subsequent to the commencement of the rollout of these certificates, Medicare Australia indicated that certificates were no longer required to digitally sign electronic referrals sent by GPs to specialists, leaving a question mark over their potential uses going forward.

According to the RACGP, the 4th edition of the Standards will lead the way in showing general practitioners how e-health will work within their practice and assist them to incorporate the necessary changes as primary care continues to rapidly evolve in Australia.

Dr Chris Mitchell, RACGP President and GP in northern New South Wales said that Australia is at the forefront of GP accreditation in the world and a benchmark against which other countries have based their systems.

“GPs are at the centre of the health care system in Australia. They work at a very high capacity, requiring a high level of skills in a variety of environments. Within that they provide a continuity of care and their work has become increasingly complex.

“GPs use a variety of different systems and the RACGP Standards must allow for a high level of interoperability to allow data to be moved safely and without errors.

“GPs are increasingly reliant on computers for patient care and there are immense benefits that could arise from an Australian health sector operating as an inter-connected system, avoiding duplication and reducing errors,” he said.

In a statement issued by the RACGP, the organisation said that it is “ensuring that the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) is informed of what is reasonable, workable and useful for GPs when leading the progression of e-health in Australia”.

The 4th edition of the RACGP Standards for General Practices will be launched at the RACGP annual conference — GP’10 — that will be held in Cairns in October 2010.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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