The Federal Government has confirmed it will provide incentives for GPs to participate in its $467 million national e-health record system, scheduled to go live on 1 July, following a prolonged period of lobbying by industry.
Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, confirmed that amendments have been made to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) to enable access for GPs who participate in the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).
“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,” Plibersek said.
“We know clinicians will be central to the smooth and effective operation of the national eHeath records system.”
The scheme will have multiple levels of benefit including Level B benefit of $35.60, which will be available for consultations which involve the GP taking a medical history for less than 20 minutes. GPs will be able to claim a Level C $69 benefit for more than 20 minutes. The Level D benefit, at $101.55, will be available for consultations that involve taking a more extensive medical history for more than 40 minutes.
I want to confirm that the use of the longer consultation items will be seen as appropriate by the Medicare Australia Practitioner Review Process and the Professional Services Review in circumstances where there is clear evidence of patient complexity and there is documentation of a substantial patient history.
The confirmation follows a wealth of industry comment around the lack of incentives for GPs to take part in the program, most notably, from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) who called for the amendments back in September.
RACGP National Standing Committee on e-health chairman, Dr. John Bennett, told Computerworld Australia that the government needed to acknowledge how much extra effort would be required of GPs to participate in the PCEHR.
“We would like to see amendments to the Medicare Benefits Schedule to recognise the additional workload GPs will undertake in consultations initiating and maintaining the patient’s shared health summary and other elements of the PCEHR.”
“This is a big and exciting project, but I’m determined not to rush it,” she said. “We’ve always said the rollout of the national eHealth system would be in gradual, carefully managed phases.”
According to Plibersek, the go-live date would enable the first patients to register and deliver the “building blocks” for the system to start rolling out but uptake would be slow for the first few years, prior to the system maturing.
“Over time, as patients and doctors register, more detailed and sophisticated features will be available as part of an eHealth record.
“Eventually things like immunisation records, Medicare and pharmaceutical benefits information, organ donation details, and hospital discharge papers will be able to be added.
“And healthcare professionals will start to integrate patient eHealth records with the software they use in their practices.”
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