New Zealand to invest $3m in patient portal roll-out

New Zealand's Ministry of Health will provide $3 million towards the roll-out of general practice patient portals as part of the National Health IT Board's plan to provide all patients with online access to their clinical information.

While the NHITB had hoped that portals would be offered to all patients by the end of the year, there has been some resistance in the general practice community, particularly around the cost of installing the products currently on the market.

Market leaders Medtech Global and MyPractice both offer portals, Medtech through its ManageMyHealth and MyPractice through Health365.

Intrahealth also allows patient access through its Accession product, while Houston Medical is currently working with Medtech to integrate with ManageMyHealth.

All allow patients to book appointments, request repeat prescriptions and view lab results and parts of their medical records. In addition to encouraging patients to better manage their own care, portals are said to offer productivity increases for general practices by removing some of the administrative burden such as phone bookings.

They also provide a secure method for patients and practices to communicate electronically, overcoming some of the fears about allowing correspondence by email.

However, the significant upfront costs in purchasing the technology and ongoing subscription costs for practices has limited their uptake. According to Health Minister Tony Ryall, 78 general practices are currently offering a portal out of approximately 800 practices in the country.

GPs have also voiced concerns about medico-legal liability as well as confidentiality, security and permissions.

The software vendors have been working with the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP), the Medical Council of New Zealand, GPNZ, the primary health organisations (PHOs) and the Ministry to developing a code of practice for the provision of patient portals. These organisations are also working on developing resources and guidelines on how to implement portals and register patients.

While it is not yet clear how the $3m will be distributed, Mr Ryall said it will be used to give practical support to general practices planning to introduce a portal.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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