Clients may be aware of the recent publicity surrounding Personal Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR).
The introduction of the PCEHR is via a staged process and the first stage is due to commence on 1 July 2012. For our clients there is no need to take any immediate action.
e-Health is part of a major health reform in Australia. The PCEHR is part of that reform. The PCEHR is an electronic record of an individual's important health information at a particular time, stored and shared in a secure network of connected systems.
The Commonwealth Government intends that the rollout of the PCEHR will be a gradual process of transition over a number of years. On July 1 consumers will be able to apply for and be registered to use the PCEHR. Health professionals and providers of health services will not be able to participate as at 1 July as the software will not be available. The anticipated timeframe for the availability of the software is September/October 2012.
Any clients wanting information on this initiative and functionality of the PCEHR are encouraged to ring MIGA or access further information via the e-Health Australian Government website at www.ehealth.gov.au.
The PCEHR is intended to bring key health information from a number of different health systems together and presented in a single view, with information able to be accessed by the individual consumer and authorized health care providers. A robust, truly national, maintained and secure system will be an excellent advancement and should achieve the stated aims which include:
- Improved safety and quality of healthcare in Australia
- Increased involvement of individuals in their own health
- Improved access for health care providers to reliable health information where and when it is needed
- Enhanced shared care of complex medical problems and chronic disease
- Overall better health management.
MIGA recognises we do not live in an ideal world and these intentions are unlikely to be immediately met.
The recent publicity raises questions and concerns about a number of matters including:
- Increased exposure of doctors to litigation
- Consumer ability to restrict access to parts of the record
- Whether the record is current
- Questions about responsibility of ensuring the record is maintained
- Whether information has been omitted
- Impact on medical indemnity premiums
- Insurance cover for doctors who embrace e-Health.
Undoubtedly as with all things new, there will be problems and issues arising from implementation.
MIGA has been involved in the numerous meetings organised by the National e-Health Transition Authority which has been charged with devising and delivering e-Health to the community. The most recent meeting was on 13 June 2012. We anticipate there may be medico-legal issues arising from the introduction of e-Health. Some of those issues will be unique to the e-Health concept, others will be a replication of those issues which already exist for health care practitioners in their day to day practice.
It is important to remember:
- The e-Health record does not and is not intended to replace clinical records maintained by health care providers and they must continue to maintain individual patient records as they always have
- Participation by health care providers, including doctors, in e-Health and the PCEHR is voluntary
- Health care providers should make an informed decision about whether to enter the e-Health environment and speak with MIGA about concerns
- There are many issues still to be resolved including those dealing with access, integrity and accuracy of the information. These are and continue to be the subject of debate and discussion
- In relation to insurance cover:
- Doctors or providers of health services who are insured with MIGA have the benefit of broad cover provided by MIGA's insurance policies and participation in e-Health perse does not exclude clients from access to the benefits of the cover
- Participation in the PCEHR may expose our clients to liability and costs that may not be covered by insurance - we are negotiating with the Commonwealth in relation to these potential exposures and we will update clients as discussions progress
- There is no current indication that the advent of and participation in the e-Health system will result in an increase in medical indemnity premiums.
We are conscious our clients may have questions about the introduction of e-Health, what it means for them and their obligations. We will continue to engage the Commonwealth to ensure they address the issues of concern that we and our clients have identified.
We will keep clients informed of developments as further information on the PCEHR becomes available.
In the interim if you have any questions in relation to e-Health please contact Victoria Webster, claims solicitor in our office who has been intimately involved in the stakeholder discussions.
Friday, 15 June 2012