Doctors win recognition for PCEHR work
The Federal Government has bowed to pressure from the AMA and will allow doctors to bill for time spent preparing and maintaining shared electronic health records as part of Medicare Benefits Scheme consultations. In an important change that should help deliver some much-needed momentum to its Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) scheme, the Commonwealth has acceded to AMA demands that doctors be compensated for the extra work involved in supporting the system.
The Federal Government has bowed to pressure from the AMA and will allow doctors to bill for time spent preparing and maintaining shared electronic health records as part of Medicare Benefits Scheme consultations.
In an important change that should help deliver some much-needed momentum to its Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) scheme, the Commonwealth has acceded to AMA demands that doctors be compensated for the extra work involved in supporting the system.
In a further breakthrough, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has delayed the introduction of requirements that practices have PCEHR capability to remain eligible for the Practice Incentive Program (PIP) e-health payment.
The new rules were originally to come into effect in February next year but doctors will now have until May 2013 to meet the PCEHR requirement.
This new cut-off date, while an improvement, remains a tight deadline for doctors to ensure their practices are PCEHR-ready.
Ms Plibersek announced the changes, which she said had been made as the result of “strong representations by the AMA and feedback from GPs”, during a speech to the AMA Parliamentary Dinner on 22 August.
“As a result of that consultation, I can confirm that GPs will be able to bill the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) for preparing both shared health summaries and even summaries as part of a consultation,” Ms Plibersek said. “In deciding which item to bill, GPs will only have to consider the reasonable time it would take, not the complexity of the consultation, which I know has been something that has been concerning some of you.”
The Minister said “strong representations” from the AMA had also convinced her to delay the PCEHR capability requirement for the e-PIP to May 2013.
“We believe that these decisions acknowledge the central role that GPs will be playing in an effective e-health records system,” Ms Plibersek said.
AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said the changes were a welcome and much-needed improvement in arrangements for the PCEHR, and would encourage doctors to become actively involved in the implementation of the scheme.
“The Government has clarified that additional time spent by a GP on a shared health summary or an event summary during a consultation will count towards the total consultation time, and that the relevant time-based GP item can be billed accordingly,” Dr Hambleton said.
“The Minister has fully explained how doctors can safely and confidently provide new PCEHR clinical services, such as a shared health summary, under current MBS items.”
Dr Hambleton said the move, together with a three-month delay in the full introduction of new e-PIP requirements, was important in helping GPs prepare for the PCEHR system.
“They will allow doctors more time to make the transition to the new e-health environment in their practices, and are a more positive outcome from the ongoing discussions the AMA has had with the Minister’s office and the Department,” the AMA President said.
While supporting the principle of shared electronic health records, the AMA has been at the forefront of criticisms of the way the Government has devised the PCEHR scheme, and the haste with which it has been introduced.
The system has been dogged by technical glitches and delays, and in its first six weeks little more than 5000 people registered an interest in having a shared electronic record.
In a nationally televised speech soon after its 1 July launch, Dr Hambleton warned that the scheme would stall without the support of GPs.
The AMA has had a number of meetings with the Minister and senior Government officials about concerns including a lack of compensation for doctors for the extra work involved in creating and maintaining electronic health records and an absence of software for practices to link in with the system, as well as unresolved concerns about record security and privacy and insufficient public information about the scheme.
But Dr Hambleton said the concessions made by the Government would help encourage doctors to take part.
“The activity that is required to create and maintain a shared health summary is a new clinical service for doctors that will need to be factored into current clinical practice. The work involved in creating an event summary will also have to be factored into clinical practice,” the AMA President said. “These activities are clinically relevant services that will require extra work for the doctors who choose to provide them.”
“The announcements are significant incentives for doctors to take part. The Government has delivered a catalyst to accelerate the implementation of the PCEHR.”
Published: 02 Sep 2012