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Time to seize the e-health agenda

The AMA, with the support of NEHTA, last week hosted a seminar on the proposed personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) and the new Medicare videoconferencing items. E-health is an area where medical leadership is particularly important.

20 Jun 2011

By AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton

The AMA, with the support of NEHTA, last week hosted a seminar on the proposed personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) and the new Medicare videoconferencing items.

E-health is an area where medical leadership is particularly important.

If we are to see real clinical and safety and quality benefits from the e-health initiatives, it is critical that clinicians are the driving force behind what is adopted, and how those tools are used.

The AMA remains optimistic about the innovations that e-health may offer.  It will be necessary to engage fully if we want to help deliver them.

From the prospect of being able to share patient information electronically to providing consultations over the Internet where clinically appropriate, the range of possibilities and changes to the way we manage our practices is very exciting.

The e-health future is bright but we have to get it right.  To get it right, the medical profession – led by the AMA – must seize the e-health agenda … and we will.

Computers have changed medical practice – for the better.  As a GP, I could not work without my computer and the Internet.

I need accurate, appropriate and reliable information and the technology provides it for me.

Current and future information technology advances will provide even greater benefits for medical practice, for doctors and for patients.

But, given the current debate, we can’t sit back and wait for it to happen.  We can’t wait for the Government to hand us an e-health fait accompli because we may not get what we need.  We have to manage the change.

We have to advise the Government and its agencies on the best way to go in e-health.  It is too important to be sidelined.

We have argued that the PCEHR should be ‘opt out’ and we have argued for many other modifications.  However, the proposed form of the PCEHR looks very different to what we have suggested and, as it stands, will provide only limited safety benefits.

There will be clinical and medico-legal risks for medical practitioners unless some processes are changed.

There will be a significant administrative burden imposed on medical practices.

There must be both a clinical and a financial business case or it won’t leave the starting blocks.

The AMA has no doubt that the principal users of the PCEHR will be the medical profession so we must advise the Government of our genuine concerns and offer solutions.

Any record system that fails to provide a medical practitioner with easy access to concise, complete and reliable data is unlikely to be widely adopted by the profession.

Doctors are constantly under pressure to provide safe, effective, high quality medical care in the face of practical time constraints and, if introduced properly, e-health initiatives will save time.

The right approach, the right information, and the right investment in e-health can deliver real benefits to patient care and to the efficiency of the health care system.

The AMA and the medical profession stand ready to get behind e-health and make it the reality that the Australian health system needs.

We want to be a catalyst to allow our patients to get the best possible benefits from e-health.

It is doctors and the patients they treat who must be the beneficiaries of the e-health revolution.  The benefits to the majority must not be sacrificed to any rabid minority who could simply opt out.

E-health is important.  It is our future.  We want it.  We need it.  We cannot afford to let it fail.  Medical leadership is the key.


Published: 20 Jun 2011