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E-health records in need of urgent help: GPs

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The nation’s peak general practice organisations have called for urgent action to address serious shortcomings in the troubled electronic health records system.

At a summit held earlier this month at AMA House, United General Practice Australia (UGPA) identified major problems with the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system that severely undermined its usefulness to both practitioners and patients.

“Currently there is no alignment between consumer registration and meaningful use through engagement of the clinical community and assurance of improvement in patient health outcomes,” UGPA, which includes the AMA, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australian Medicare Local Alliance and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, said.

In its statement, UGPA noted the resignation of a number of clinical advisers to the National E-Health Transition Authority (including former AMA President Dr Mukesh Haikerwal), and voiced concerns that opportunities for clinical engagement on the project have since been “less clear”.

The GP group called for a profession-led process to improve the PCEHR, including ensuring there was GP input at every point in the system’s development, from planning through to implementation, as well as in making sure it was clinically safe and fit for purpose.

UGPA said clinicians also needed to be included in the development of a robust legal and privacy framework for the PCEHR, and to ensure there was secure messaging interoperability.

“E-health and the PCEHR have the potential to transform Australia’s health system and provide superior, safer and more efficient health care to all patients,” UGPA said. “[But] this potential will only be fully realised if there is meaningful clinical engagement at a grassroots level.”

UGPA said it supported the Abbott Government’s review of the implementation of the PCEHR, as revealed in the 7 October edition of Australian Medicine.

Adrian Rollins