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10 Oct 2017

BY DR ANDREW MULCAHY, CHAIR, MEDICAL PRACTICE COMMITTEE

In my first article as the new Medical Practice Committee Chair, I think it’s worthwhile reminding AMA members how much goes on behind the scenes in developing, updating and revising the AMA’s policies and positions.

As the leading medical professional group in Australia, the AMA is the first port of call – for Government, the media and the general public – on advice and opinions about health care.

It’s essential then that we are on the front foot with a ready, well-reasoned and thoroughly researched response so that we maintain our credibility and our high profile, premier position.

The Medical Practice Committee (MPC) is one of several groups within the AMA tasked with providing advice on the development of policy and advocacy strategies. MPC’s responsibilities range across the whole spectrum of issues related to the day-to-day practice of being a doctor.

This scope of responsibility is therefore very broad, but here’s a sample of some of the topics MPC will consider and progress over the next twelve months.

A substantial body of work will be reviewing four AMA position statements covering aged care issues such as funding models, palliative care, medical care in residential aged care facilities and community based aged care. AMA position statements act as the key reference point for the AMA in responding to new policy proposals so it’s important that they are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date, relevant, and reflect current AMA thinking.

The AMA’s position statement on Pathology is also due for an update, and we also plan to develop a new position statement on Diagnostic Imaging, given its recent prominence in health funding debates.

MPC provides the main oversight to the MBS Reviews. While specialist colleges, societies and associations are rightly best placed to provide expert clinical input to the reviews, the AMA has an important role in ensuring the process is transparent, evidence-based and robust. This requires ongoing scrutiny and occasionally strong AMA intervention.

MPC also steers the AMA’s policy on e-health. It developed the AMA’s positions and advocacy on the My Health Record – including its switch to an opt-out model – and continues to provide advice on the development of specific record types and optimising their usability for doctors.

New and emerging issues also need to be proactively considered and policy positions developed as they evolve. Genomics is an expanding field raising significant funding allocation, practice, and ethical issues. Similarly, the increasing practice of subcontracting the assessment of patient tests to off-shore, non-Australian registered health practitioners raises potential liability and indemnity concerns.

Of course, MPC also has to respond quickly to immediate questions. For example, it provides the bulk of advice on how the AMA should respond to the Therapeutic Goods Association’s reform program – so far resulting in the AMA lodging nine submissions informed by MPC advice. Upcoming is a proposal that Schedule 3 medicines (pharmacist only) can be advertised as the default position, rather than as the exception under current regulations. More controversial proposals are scheduled for consultation in the coming months.

So the MPC’s future agenda is full, varied and definitely challenging over the year ahead.

Finally, I’d like to thank Professor Robyn Langham and acknowledge her three year stewardship of MPC. I’m grateful that she has agreed to stay on as a committee member to continue to share her expertise and insights.


Published: 10 Oct 2017