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04 Mar 2014

The AMA has had a long standing interest in reducing the amount of red tape that wastes GPs time, extends their work day and reduces the time available for consultations.

A number of the red tape headaches for GPs were recently highlighted by the AMA in its submission to the National Commission of Audit - in particular, the PBS authority system, Medicare provider numbers, the registration process for the PCEHR, Centrelink documentation, and Chronic Disease Management items.

More often than not there is absolutely no justification for the regulatory burden imposed on GPs.

Take the PBS authorities as a case in point. The Department of Health, upon reviewing the impact on prescribing behaviour of moving PBS authority medicines to streamlined arrangements, found none. Meaning, GPs are prescribing appropriately.  Of the 6.4 million calls received to the PBS authority line in 2008-09, only 2.8 per cent were denied authority. Even the Productivity Commission has recommended its abolition. I, for one, have no doubt that removing the PBS authority system would make a significant improvement to the productivity and efficiency of GPs across Australia.

The Productivity Commission also backed the AMA’s view that the Government should implement a single provider number for each GP.

Current rules require GPs to apply for and obtain a separate provider number for each location they work in. With many of us working in more than one location, this is convoluted and unnecessary, not to mention a significant issue for practices trying obtain staff at short notice, and for GPs providing locum assistance. I’m at a loss as to why we need anything other than what the AMA has previously recommended, a single provider number with a location specific identification number.

Registering for the PCEHR has been one of the biggest red tape headaches in recent times. It is not surprising, given the complexity of what is required, that more than 80 per cent of PCEHR participant applications have been incorrectly completed. It has been a resource-intensive exercise, and if the Government wants to see other medical practices and healthcare organisations participate in the PCEHR, they are going to have to simplify the registration arrangements.

One red tape headache that can have a significant effect on a GP’s day is all the paperwork required by Government departments such as Centrelink, and third parties such as WorkCover. The AMA has actively worked with Centrelink to improve and streamline their Medical Certificate and Treating Doctor Medical Report forms. These forms can now be completed and lodged electronically via the Health Professional Online Service (HPOS). Reports lodged this way prefill the provider details, and can be saved and used as the basis for generating future reports for that patient. Nevertheless, it would be much more efficient for GPs if forms such as these were integrated with our practice software.

The red tape that wraps up current chronic disease management (CDM) arrangements has more to do with regulating non-clinical tasks than it does with the provision of quality of care. Last year, the Department of Health reviewed CDM items with a view to improving their effectiveness. As part of this they were willing, where possible, to reduce red tape and simplify referral arrangements. Since the election this work has stalled.

The AMA believes there is significant scope to improve the operation of the CDMs, and is urging the Government to work with the AMA to develop sensible reforms that support the provision of quality care without tying GPs up in red tape.

Published: 04 Mar 2014