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Central Government, E-Government, Healthcare IT

Australia incentivises General Practitioners to join national e-health programme

The Australian Government is racing to enlist General Practitioners (GPs) into its US$484 million (AUD $476 million) national e-Health programme — with new rebate incentives for healthcare professionals.

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Doctors participating in the e-Health program will receive Medicare rebates for their patients – attracting larger numbers of GPs into the e-Health network across States and Territories.

The e-Health initiative, to go live in July 2012, is part of the government’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) initiative.

Australia’s Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) is being amended, enabling GPs to join the PCEHR programme, while benefiting from rebates for consultation.

An amended MBS rebate scheme offers multiple levels of benefits to GPs, based on the time and detail of consultation, and complexity of a patient’s history.

The PCEHR package will improve the collection of patient data and offer a consolidated picture of patients’ history, as people move between GPs, hospitals, or other medical facilities.

Clinicians are central to the smooth and effective running of Australia’s national e-Health records system, according to the Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek.

“I am pleased to confirm MBS consultation items will be available to GPs as part of providing continuity of care to a patient, and if they are creating or adding to a shared health summary on an e-Health record which involves taking a patient’s medical history as part of a consultation.”

Over time, as patients and doctors register, more detailed and sophisticated features will be available as part of an e-Health record.

“Eventually things like immunisation records, Medicare and pharmaceutical benefits information, organ donation details, and hospital discharge papers will be able to be added.”

Australia’s e-Health initiative is being rolled out in phases, while tackling concerns about privacy, and the number of people with access to personal medical records.

The latest incentive for GPs offers additional building blocks to rolling out Australia’s e-Health reforms.

Healthcare professionals will be able to integrate patient e-Health records with software being used at their practices.

Australia’s GP rebate scheme is supported by peak industry bodies, including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

RACGP president, Claire Jackson, says some of the detail needs finalising. “I am delighted that MBS consultation items will be available to GPs if they are adding a shared health summary to the patient’s PCEHR which involves taking a patient’s medical history as part of a consultation.”

The Federal Government’s PCEHR program is being rolled out in stages over two years.

This effort supports the creation of personally-controlled electronic health records, including summaries of patients’ healthcare information and secure access to e-Health records for patients and their healthcare providers.

The government has undertaken to streamline governance and privacy provisions under its healthcare reforms.

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