AMA survey finds practices not ready for PCEHR

A survey carried out by the Australian Medical Association in preparing a guide to using the PCEHR has found that few practices are ready to start using the system on July 1.

The survey, an online poll of AMA members run for two weeks in January, showed that only eight per cent of practices will be ready to use the PCEHR on its starting date.

While the survey is not representative, with only 197 members choosing to respond, the results show that medical practitioners are unsure of the detail of the system and some are unsure of the value and worth it will have in practice.

The survey was designed to help the AMA prepare a draft guide to using the PCEHR, which the organisation released for public comment today.

The draft guide, prepared with the assistance of the National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA), is a plain English guide to assist medical practitioners to make choices about participating in the PCEHR system and explains how they might use the PCEHR in their day-to-day practice.

AMA president Steve Hambleton said while the AMA supports patients taking responsibility for their own health, “the PCEHR has practical clinical limitations for medical practitioners in the treatment of patients in respect of the content, accuracy, and accessibility of the information”.

“We accept that the intention is for people to be able to register for the PCEHR from 1 July, but we have advised the government that there will be very few medical practitioners who will have the capability to interact with the system from that date,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Nevertheless, the AMA considers the PCEHR will become a valuable addition to quality health in Australia over time and will work with the government to ensure that the best possible PCEHR is available for patients and health professionals.”

The survey found that there were major concerns about the PCEHR, with 80 per cent of participants indicating they were concerned about the administrative requirements of the PCEHR system, and over 70 per cent were concerned about the financial implications.

“This clearly illustrates some of the barriers that face successful adoption of the PCEHR system amongst medical practitioners,” the survey report found.

“If they are not able to efficiently introduce the PCEHR to their existing workflows and business models, it will be difficult to allay the concerns that are agreed to here.”

The report found that a majority of participants agreed with statements about the clinical uses of the PCEHR, particularly with statements about viewing or accessing discrete clinical data such as current medications, allergies and adverse events, discharge summaries and pathology information.

“However, participants agreed less with statements about contributing information to the PCEHR and their willingness to use the system at launch in July 2012,” the survey results found.

“This reflects one of the fundamental challenges of the PCHER: while many health professionals are enthusiastic to use shared electronic health information and enjoy the benefits of this system, there is concern about the costs in time and efficiency that will be incurred while entering, reviewing and curating shared patient information.”

Participants in the survey represented 18 specialties, ranging in career stage from intern to consultant for more than 20 years, and practicing in private, public, hospital, community and rural settings.

Sixty-nine participants were general practitioners, with 34 physicians, 19 surgeons, 18 psychiatrists and 15 anaesthetists.

The draft guide to the PCEHR is available for public comments until Friday, April 27.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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