‘We’ve been clear’: dept rejects PCEHR criticism
THE health department has rejected suggestions it has been anything but “clear and unequivocal” about funding arrangements for GPs compiling PCEHR records, as doctors’ groups continue to question the details.
AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton has accused the department of using “weasel words” to obscure the fact there is no new funding for GPs to prepare e-health records.
The RACGP last week released a series of scenarios, developed with support from the department, to give GPs examples of how the PCEHR would work with existing MBS items.
One scenario questioned whether a GP could reasonably charge a Level B or C consultation in the case of 75-year-old ‘Mary’ who had a long history of comorbidities, was taking several medications and “consults you as her GP… specifically to prepare a shared health summary”.
The department advised, “Yes – creation of a shared health summary will be a clinically relevant service, as such extensive history and polypharmacy would be important for clinicians caring for Mary to be aware of… as they prescribe and manage her comorbidities. [However] an MBS rebate is not payable for the transcription of a medical record without an associated clinically relevant service”.
Dr Hambleton said the advice contained “weasel words” and the department seemed to tailor answers to obscure the fact that there was no new money.
“The information flow and clarity has been very poor... perhaps intentionally,” he said.
College president Professor Claire Jackson said the advice received on the test cases confirmed that GPs would be financially supported for clinical work and said although it was “probably not everything we would want” it was a “sound start”.
A department spokesperson rejected “any suggestions that we have not been clear and unequivocal about the funding arrangements for GPs compiling PCEHR records”.
“We have consistently communicated to Medical Observer, other medical publications and the AMA that there will be no new MBS items for the PCEHR [and] we have clarified how the existing items can be used to prepare shared health summaries in the context of a consultation.”
The continued wrangling over PCEHR remuneration comes as one senior expert warned Australian e-health had reached a crossroads with current funding winding down and next week’s federal budget could make or break the system.
COAG funding for the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), responsible for introducing the PCEHR, has not been renewed beyond June; nor has the government added to the $467 million over two years it allocated to e-health records in the 2010 budget.
NEHTA national clinical lead Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said if patients were to reap any benefit the government must capitalise on the hundreds of millions of dollars already invested.