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AMA advocacy in diagnostic imaging funding and practice

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BY DR ANDREW MULCAHY, CHAIR, AMA’S MEDICAL PRACTICE COMMITTEE

Diagnostic imaging may not always enjoy a high profile in the media but the AMA actively and continuously advocates on behalf of its members who provide diagnostic imaging services.

Some of the AMA’s activities are reported publicly, such as the AMA’s response to the Federal Parliament Senate inquiry into access to diagnostic imaging equipment. The AMA lodged a comprehensive submission covering the Government’s funding and regulation of diagnostic imaging equipment and the impact on equitable patient access. The submission was guided by the Medical Practice Committee with particular input from MPC member, Professor Makhan (Mark) Khangure, who is also the radiologist specialist representative on the AMA’s Federal Council.

The AMA was subsequently invited to provide evidence directly to the Senate Committee, which led to Professor Khangure speaking to Senators at a hearing held in Perth and sharing his knowledge and expertise from working in both the public and private sectors.

Diagnostic imaging also featured publicly and prominently in the AMA’s 2018-19 Budget Submission to the Federal Government. The AMA called for realistic funding and support for diagnostic imaging services under Medicare as one of its key priorities.

Other activities are more ‘behind the scenes’ but equally important in ensuring the AMA uses every opportunity to influence Government funding and regulatory decisions.

The AMA continues to monitor the Federal Department of Health’s implementation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review, a mammoth project begun in 2015 to assess more than 5,700 MBS items to ensure they are aligned with contemporary clinical evidence and practice. Work to assess diagnostic imaging related MBS items is a large component of this task. The AMA’s focus is to ensure the review is conducted transparently and appropriately.

The AMA is a member of the Diagnostic Imaging Advisory Committee, which provides advice to the Federal Department of Health on Medicare funding and regulatory policies relating to diagnostic imaging. This is a long-running standing committee, separate to the MBS Review, which meets twice a year, providing the AMA with the opportunity to advocate specifically on behalf of radiologist and other specialist members providing diagnostic imaging services funded under Medicare. MPC member, Dr Gino Pecoraro, is the AMA’s current representative.

The AMA is also a member of the Diagnostic Imaging Steering Committee, which provides advice to the Australian Digital Health Agency to ensure that the development and implementation of shared electronic records protocols related to diagnostic imaging services are appropriate and effective. Professor Khangure represents the AMA on this committee which meets four times a year.

Early this year, the AMA attended a stakeholder consultation meeting to discuss the Department of Health’s new ‘risk-based’ model of Medicare audit and compliance activities and its impact on medical practitioners providing diagnostic imaging services. The Department proposed a range of methods for identifying and remedying potentially non-compliant claiming of Medicare benefits. The AMA supports fair and transparent compliance processes and recommended educational approaches as a first step, with the goal of minimising unnecessary and invasive audits of individual practices or doctors.

Finally, as flagged in an article in this column last year, MPC has developed a new Position Statement on diagnostic imaging to formally bring together and promote the AMA’s full suite of diagnostic imaging policies.​ The Position Statement was endorsed by Federal Council last month and will be launched soon.

The AMA welcomes members’ views on advocacy priorities and strategies. If you have any comments or suggestions to make, please email them to president@ama.com.au

 

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