Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Consumers need to opt in to ehealth records

Adam Cresswell wrote a piece in last week’s Weekend Australian highlighting concerns raised by doctors and consumer groups about likely low take-up rates for the electronic health records and calling for basic changes to keep the scheme on track.  The article focuses on comments from CHF in its submission to the Senate inquiry on the legislation to the program, in which it argues in favour of an opt-out, rather than an opt-in system. 

HCCA also presented a submission to this inquiry, strongly supporting the opt-in model.  This view is based on discussion of consumer members of the ACT ehealth Consumer Reference Group.

In an ideal world, opt-out has many strong arguments in its favour.  However, the reality of getting the PCEHR successfully implemented requires giving up some health data principles.  The introduction of the PCEHR represents a major shift in public perception and if the system to realise its potential, both health care providers and health care consumers need to be supportive and to be supported.  We are not there yet!

If everyone has a PCEHR, but few access it, what use is that?  Let those that know about it and want it be the trail seekers.  We have to start slowly otherwise it will fail.

There is also an issue around the incentives that are required to entice practitioners to become nominated providers in the system.  There is considerable discussion around the need for the Government to provide payment.  Why should the medical profession take on more tasks without being paid?  No amount of saying in the long run it will be beneficial to clinicians and their patients will bring about the change needed.  The demand for the time of our clinicians is strong and in some areas we do not have enough clinician to meet the needs of our communities. Some feel strongly that to expect them to add to their workload is a big ask and would mean other 'services' can't be provided.  A mechanism to engage clinicians to become nominated providers and to upload documents to the PCEHR has to be agreed soon so that consumers are not disadvantaged.

HCCA understands why the Government has adopted an “opt in” policy for consumer participation in the system and continues to support it, although we remain concerned that allowing clinicians to withhold records from the system may disadvantage consumers who choose to opt in and that some form of mechanism to limit this possibility needs to be incorporated in the EHR implementation. This, we believe, will enable it to better cater to consumer needs.

Darlene Cox
Executive Director

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