Punctuation a stumbling block for e-health
Medical Observer has found patients with apostrophes or hyphens in their name cannot register for an e-health record, as the government scrambles to get the rest of the patient registration process working.
Patient registrations were originally due to be made available online, via telephone or in person at a Medicare office from 1 July, before the government signalled online registrations had been scrapped.
Online registrations were briefly made available earlier this week but have since been taken offline again, along with the consumer portal patients were supposed to use to access their records.
A health department spokesperson said the department had been testing the performance of the system and the related links.
When MO attempted to use the telephone registration system yesterday the operator said an apostrophe in the surname to be registered could not be entered into the system, and that all names with special characters would require an update of the system before they could be entered.
The department spokesperson said these issues were being addressed.
A second attempt today by another MO reporter failed when the operator reported having difficulty securing a password, placed the call on hold and eventually hung up.
But experts have urged GPs not to focus on the difficult implementation of the system, and to remember the benefits that e-health records could deliver.
RACGP e-health spokesperson Dr Mike Civil said there were likely to have been teething problems in the registration process whether it was launched this year or next.
“Until we had something there, actually being used, it’s very hard to pick up these issues,” Dr Civil said.
“Things like not being able to enter apostrophes should have been a no-brainer really, but as they get a critical mass of people pointing out these problems they will begin to make changes.
“As it is, it will probably be five years before we see the real benefits of the system but if we had waited another year to start that would have been six.”
CEO of private e-health record provider Extensia, Emma Hossack, said it would be a “tragedy for Australia” if GPs and patients brushed off the e-health agenda because the implementation so far had convinced them it was unworkable.
“There are hundreds of medical software technologies currently being deployed in Australia with extraordinary results,” Ms Hossack said.
“I hope all of this good work is not tarnished by the well-publicised failure of the government’s implementation to date.”