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26 Aug 2013

The recent resignation of Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, head of clinical leadership and stakeholder management, from the National Electronic Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) raises serious concerns about clinical input to decision-making in the implementation of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).

The resignations of Dr Haikerwal, a former AMA President and NHHRC Commissioner, and other clinical leads, including Dr Nathan Pinksier, came amid reports that the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) was taking over engagement with the medical profession and IT industry over the design of the PCEHR.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said that the AMA has long advocated that the success of the PCEHR depended on how it met clinical needs.

“The PCEHR simply will not be effective if doctors – the people who patients trust most with their health care – do not have a say on what goes on the electronic medical record and how that information is accessed and used, and by whom.

“This has been a sticking point for the medical profession all along.

“That is why the AMA has pushed for a more consultative approach to the PCEHR implementation with priority to be given to ailments, treatments, tests, and medications.

“This is the sort of expertise that Dr Haikerwal and his colleagues brought to NEHTA and the whole e-health sector.

“Mukesh has been a passionate advocate for e-health in this country, on behalf of doctors and patients, for more than a decade.

“The AMA is proud of his direction and leadership in this important area of medicine, and we are disturbed that he has chosen to resign.

“There is still much more work to be done to refine the e-health systems as they are developed and rolled out - clinical guidance and input remains crucial to a successful implementation.

“There are still some fundamental aspects of the design that means the PCEHR is not useful from the medical practitioners' perspective.

“If the system is not being used by clinicians, we need to know why, and then make the necessary changes.

“We cannot afford to lose the significant investment that the nation has made in this important health infrastructure.”

In a promising development, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing, Jane Halton, called an urgent meeting with Dr Hambleton to discuss the ongoing PCEHR development and implementation in the wake of the resignations.

Dr Hambleton was told that frontline clinical input was vital to the success of the PCEHR, and that the Department and NEHTA would consult closely with the AMA on electronic health programs, including the PCEHR.

Dr Hambleton said that while the resignations of key clinical people was regrettable, they will not be in vain.

“The resignations have been a catalyst for immediate meaningful engagement on the way forward,” Dr Hambleton said.

John Flannery

Published: 26 Aug 2013