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Department giving GPs the PIPs

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The Health Department is threatening to axe incentive payments to medical practices that fail to upload shared health summaries to the My Health Record system despite the fact that it is still under development.

In a move condemned by AMA Council of General Practice Chair Dr Brian Morton, the Department has advised general practices that unless shared health summaries for 0.5 per cent of their standardised whole patient equivalent are uploaded in May, they will no longer be eligible for payments under the e-health Practice Incentives Program (ePIP).

A Department spokeswoman told Pulse+IT magazine the eligibility requirement could be met by a single GP in the practice, and added that a tiered performance-based approach linked to levels of system use would be introduced from August, “subject to the outcome of consultations with the general practice community”.

But Dr Morton condemned the Department’s move, which he said was premature and had been undertaken without adequate consultation.

“It’s going to be an appalling cock-up because they haven’t listened to the profession, they’ve not listened to the stakeholders, and they’re not giving us enough time,” he told Medical Observer.

The Department is implementing the new eligibility requirements even though a trial of My Health Record’s opt-out arrangements is not due to commence until mid-July, and numerous privacy issues have yet to be resolved.

“They should be holding off until the pilots have been run and the opt-out has actually happened,” Dr Morton said.

The AMA has long flagged serious concerns with the approach the Department is taking to implementing the My Health Record (MyHR) system, which is intended to supersede the flawed Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record.

In a submission to the Health Department last year, the AMA argued that fundamental issues with the design of MyHR had to be resolved before any move to links its use to the ePIP.

It said that until shortcomings of the PCEHR such as incomplete and hidden information and a lack of take-up among consumers were fully addressed, it was premature to try to force doctors to adopt it.

“Until these problems have been rectified MyHR is neither a meaningful or functional tool, and it is unreasonable to expect GPs to actively use it,” the AMA said at the time.

“If the MyHR is easy for practitioners to utilise, the information it contains is reliable, the system and record transparently interoperable, and practitioners can quickly and clearly recognise how it will enhance patient care then they will readily engage with it.

“However, we know that the MyHR is none of these things and using the PIP incentive to try and mandate use of the MyHR will not solve this.”

The AMA said that, rather than a single practice-level ePIP payment, a better way to encourage GPs to use the system was to remunerate them through an MBS item or a Service Incentive Payment (SIP).

Adrian Rollins