Opinion: Is the new PIP QI a back door to your personal health data?
Are you ready for your doctor to get paid for supplying your data to the government on August 1 without any need for your consent?
In an unexplained twist of federal health policy, the Department of Health through its community arm, the Primary Health Networks (PHNs), is set to gather your data regardless of your consent or not. This system is devised outside of the legislative frame of the My Health Record and has no oversight.
GPs across the nation have been awaiting the federal government’s new Practice Incentive Program (PIP) payment. This was announced in the 2017 budget but no details have been announced to the public about how the system was to operate.
In the last few weeks GPs have been offered local briefings from PHNs. This is the first information available. To date no public forums have been offered. However “consultations” have taken place with the AMA, RACGP and commercial interests with expertise in data extraction.
What has been announced to doctors is an entirely new system which empowers a limited range of commercial data extraction companies to extract patient data from your GP’s records. This data will go to PHNs and then to the federal government. PHNs are poised to sign agreements or insist practices make agreements with the PHNs preferred extraction company.
Patient consent is not required to supply this data. The GP practice will receive a payment for providing the patient data. Although patient names are removed, the types of data being extracted will endanger patient confidentiality in both small practices and communities.
Your doctor's surgery already receives some money from the federal government linked to Medicare billing records. The existing PIP enables accredited practices to receive payments after Medicare items are billed to the government. Absolutely no patient medical record data such as blood pressure or weight is transmitted by the GP, only the Medicare items billed when services are provided.
The new system will take data on details such as weight, smoking status, alcohol intake and other items directly from patient medical files held by the GP surgery. If your GP surgery does not do this then most will incur a substantial loss of income compared to pre 2017 budget arrangements.
In choosing to create a new system the government is bypassing patient safeguards and consent which is build into the My Health Record (MyHR). The existing My Health Record system has potential for collecting the data, removing the need for involvement of private data extraction companies and a multitude of persons handling and patient data at the PHN level.
The MyHR system has requirements for consent, no third party extraction process, and provides flexibility about what data the patient wishes to or not to share.
In contrast, under the new system, doctors and nurses are being advised by PHNs and the Department of Health that a small sign in the waiting room indicating your data is to be used in this way is sufficient to deem patients consent.
Government and the community at large are aware that 10 per cent of the population have actively opted out of the My Health Record system, largely as they do not want their data shared.
This new system which started on August 1 has no ability to opt out at the patient level or data level. If your doctor or nurse, striving to preserve your confidentiality, does not participate then the practice will be financially penalised by the government.
The Australian community has expectations that the government will act in the public interest in seeking to improve the population's health status. The planning of health services will require the use of data. However, this imminent new system disrespects the confidentiality of doctor-patient relationships.
One is left completely puzzled why the existing $2.5 billion dollar MyHR is not used to collect this data in clear sight of the patient, the medical profession and the community at large. Could it be the federal government is playing bully boy with the profession?
And that the professional colleges, being sensitive to the failure of Medicare to keep pace with the cost of providing medical services, will trade anything, even professionalism and confidentiality, to avoid loss of funding for GP surgeries.
At this time it is not expected that state government hospitals will be paid to share data in this way.
Given the community concerns already expressed about the mining of data and manipulation of social media data, the government is in danger of having similar accusations levelled against it. Most in the profession have no idea of the damaging ramifications for patient confidence in their doctor or nurse.
Could it be the real agenda is the government is looking for a back door way to your personal GP data without parliamentary oversight or MyHR safeguards?
Mr George Orwell is likely the only one laughing.
Dr Craig Barnett is a GP practising in Newcastle and director of Healthy One Medical.
Posted in Australian eHealth
Tags: PIP QI