Tuesday, 6 May 2014

e-Health PCEHR platform: what is the Abbott Government trying to hide?

Federal Minister for Health & Minister for Sport, Peter Dutton
Media Release

e-Health Record Review

The review of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) system has been completed.
20 December 2013

The review of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) system has been completed.

Health Minister Peter Dutton today received the report from the review team headed by the Executive Director of the Uniting Care Health Group, Mr Richard Royle.

The review looked into significant concerns about the progress and implementation of the PCEHR.

Mr Royle was assisted by AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton and Australia Post CIO Andrew Walduck.

Their report provides a comprehensive plan for the future of electronic health records in Australia.

Mr Dutton said the Government would now take time to consider the review recommendations and would respond in due course.

“I sincerely thank the members of the review panel for their work on this matter.”

Media Contact: John Wiseman – 0401 776 108
Delimiter 28 April 2014:
However, Dutton has not committed to publicly releasing the findings of the PCEHR Review. As a consequence, in early January, Delimiter filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Health seeking to have the full text of the document released under the Freedom of Information Act. In late January, Rob Schreiber, acting assistant secretary for eHealth Policy for the Department of Health, wrote back to Delimiter claiming that he could not find a copy of the report within the department.
Subsequently, Delimiter filed an notice of appeal with the Department, asking explicitly that the Minister’s office be included as a search location for the document. In addition, Delimiter filed a second Freedom of Information request with the Department for the document, under the assumption that a copy may have been filed with the Department at a latter date.
Late last week the Department wrote back to Delimiter, stating that it had decided that the document would not be released under Freedom of Information laws. In the letter (which you can view in full here in PDF format), Linda Jackson, Assistant Secretary of the eHealth Policy Branch of the department’s eHealth Division, acknowledged that there were public interest reasons why the report should be released.
However, ultimately Jackson used section 47C(1) of the Freedom of Information Act to block the release of the report, on the grounds that its release would “disclose opinion, advice or recommendation obtained, prepared or recorded, or consultation or deliberation that has taken place in the deliberative processes of an agency or Minister or the Government of the Commonwealth.”
“If the contents of the review were to be made public, the matters presently under consideration … would be prematurely exposed to scrutiny which would undermine the integrity of the decision-making process of government,” Jackson wrote. “It is in the interest of the Australian community as a whole that consideration of the report’s recommendations and analysis be conducted in circumstances of confidentiality to government and those public officials who need to know relevant details.”
“I note in this context that key stakeholder groups, including peak clinical bodies, were given the opportunity to make submissions to the review team.”
The news comes, however, as pressure grows on the Government to release the report. Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton, who was one of three experts who produced the report, told the Financial Review several weeks ago that he had believed the report was going to be released in January, then February, then April…..
Given the privacy issues surrounding the PCEHR system and the background of the review's authors, one has to wonder if the report the Abbott Government is sitting on so determinedly may contain evidence of ongoing privacy breaches or a proposal to increase data collection on patients without their consent or yet again, a proposal to further limit patients control over their own electronic records.
One also has to wonder if this report indicates a relationship between a rise in the number of persons registered within the PCEHR system and the 2013 commencement of the federal government's Practice Incentives Program (PIP) which enables quarterly incentive payments (capped at $12,500 per practice, per quarter) to medical practitioners for joining and using this national data system.

1 comment:

Peter Garcia-Webb said...

It is not surprising that the report has been suppressed. Current Govt funding for PCEHR is less than required for the project to achieve the aims originally described when it first went live.

The proper handling of pathology tests is a key element missing in the current version. It’s missing because negotiations with the Australian Pathology industry failed to reach agreement. Without it the originally much vaunted savings that PCEHR would bring simply cannot be achieved.

AMA president Steve Hambleton is right; eHealth has been on hold for well over a year. That will continue for some time; there simply is no more money to waste throwing at what really is a failed project.

I wish Delimiter well with their appeal. The public does have a right to know what is happening with their medical records