GPs not ready for e-health records

General practitioners association calls for greater focus on education and support

General Practitioners are not technically nor functionally ready for the advent of personal e-health records, a representative body for the industry has warned.

In a public submission to the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) on the federal budget for 2011-2012, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners urged the Federal Government to spend more on programs to aid implementation of software, communication standards and comprehensive support for general practitioners looking to implement the government’s $467 million personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR).

“The effective up-take and implementation of e-health initiatives requires investment in information, communication, and technology systems as well as education and training,” the association’s submission reads. “General practitioners require access to technology that allows clinical communication to be timely, meaningful, and secure.”

While GPs are widely recognised as key stakeholders in the widespread implementation of e-health, they are often stereotypically portrayed as Luddites and obstacles to cultural change within the health system.

However, according to the association this was largely due to the relative lack of technical resources available to individual doctors, leading to poor processes and security culture when using electronic equipment such as e-health records.

As a result, the submission argues for ongoing education and training programs as well as incentives provided to doctors to encourage adoption of e-health standards.

Following the implementation of unique health identifiers in June last year, National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) chief executive, Peter Fleming, said approximately 700,000 health provider identifiers had been assigned to doctors.

The royal college also argued that telehealth programs planned by the Federal Government required further testing and input from general practitioners on implementation. The government, it wrote, should “fund initiatives that encourage the development of virtual teams in general practice”.

The e-health record program, announced as part of last year’s budget, is set to be implemented by government agency with the aid of four private sector partners. A total of $67 million has been committed to date in two rounds of trial sites with the task of determining the best method of implementation.

After widespread criticism among practitioners and software developers, Health Minister Nicola Roxon agreed to publicly release a draft concept of operations for the PCEHR, previously kept confidential for those developers who tendered for the project.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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