Our lives, professionally and privately are shaped and manipulated by powers and people who are very good at what they do.
The implementation of the My Health Record (previously known as the PCEHR) is one such example.
Sixteen years ago when I started working as a General Practitioner in Australia the Government was keen to see General Practitioners transition from a handwritten system to a computerised system. They knew this would not be a cheap exercise and therefore offered payments to participants as part of what is known as Practice Incentive Payments.
Back then these payments were considered as handy add-ons for most Practice owners and was not considered a core business income. Sadly that has long since ceased to be the case as we saw the Practice Incentive Payments dwindle while rebate indexation were slowed down or frozen. In 2016 these payments make out a part of our core income (see below)
In the mid 2000s The Government moved a step further – they wanted GPs to start processing Medicare claims at their rooms. It made sense to Medicare to pay GPs a few cents per Eftpos transaction rather than paying a Medicare Office worker a few Dollars to do this.
GPs took the money and set the systems in place – in fact we did it so well that they stopped paying us to do this after a few years and we now simply absorb the transaction fees while remaining de-facto Medicare offices.
The next step was preparation for the implementation of the PCEHR. Over several years e-PIP was linked to increasingly higher targets of computerisation and security measures to achieve readiness to use the system. Many practices achieved this, at not an insignificant cost in monetary and human resources, yet very few actually uploaded records to the PCEHR for the reasons I have blogged about in the past.
On May 2016 this all changed. They changed the carrots to a big stick and informed GP clinics that they would lose all of their e-PIP unless they started uploading Shared health Summaries to the My Health record System.
The reality was that Practices simply cannot afford to lose this income – not with a rebate that is either frozen or lagging behind CPI. We, and others have therefore started the ball rolling.
The systems are easy to use and if one was so inclined a patient could be registered within a few minutes at the front desk by a Receptionist. This is however not the path that we follow at our clinic as we believe that the only way a patient can be given an opportunity to provide a truly informed consent is by sitting them down with their GP for the discussion.
We provide advice to patients regarding the access controls and security measures and at the end of the discussion, after they have been given enough time to ask questions, we sign them up if they wish to proceed with the process.
Lastly it should be noted that there is not an insignificant risk for Doctors with this system. Breaching privacy, accidentally or on purpose can have career ending financial implications for an individual or a Clinic. For many technical reasons the software is flawed in it’s design which makes the act of accidentally uploading information that we have previously been advised not to incredibly easy.