Only 300 Australian GP clinics are using the federal government’s electronic health records system on a weekly basis, the Department of Health has revealed, highlighting the uphill battle Canberra faces getting doctors on board with its e-health drive.
In a response to questions on notice from the senate community affairs committee, the department shared the disappointing average, recorded between 22 October 2015 and 11 February 2016.
Australia is home to approximately 28,000 GP medical businesses, according to 2010 figures from the Bureau of Statistics.
Update 06 April 2016: A spokeswoman for the Department of Health has advised iTnews the agency uses a different approach to counting general practices to the ABS. She said their figures - which count practices per franchise rather than per location - show there are 8625 practices in Australia.
She also advised that 5312 are connected to the My Health Record system.
Getting GPs to actively use the commonwealth’s e-health record service, which has been rebadged ‘My Health Record’, has long been a challenge for the officials behind the billion-dollar scheme.
A 2013 review reported that practices faced a huge amount of work implementing a connection into the health records system, and that data cleansing and entry work didn’t end once it was up and running.
The review panel said the value proposition to a family GP - many of whom regularly see the same patients over and over - of getting on board My Health Record was negligible.
“There is currently nothing on the [system] that is of use to the patient’s regular GP,” the report found.
It noted that some doctors remained wary about the veracity of information contained in a patient record while it remains within the patient’s control to delete or edit information they don’t want shared with practitioners.
The government is aggressively addressing the take-up issue from the consumer end, announcing a $485 million rescue package for the underperforming program in the last budget that included a shift to opt-out registrations.
Yesterday Health Minister Susan Ley said the initial trial of by-default e-health records, taking place in North Queensland and the Nepean region of Western Sydney, would boost registrations to 3.6 million, or 40 percent on current levels.
She argued that universal or near-universal registration would make signing up for My Health Record more appealing to doctors.
“Doctors have indicated they’re much more likely to use the system if all their patients have a record,” she said.
“We also need full national coverage if we’re to cut down on inefficiencies created by not having one seamless records system, such as double ups with testing, prescriptions and other procedures”.
The senate estimates response also revealed that in the same October to February period, 10,900 patient users accessed the system at least once a week, and as of 11 February 2016, 74,805 shared health summaries had been uploaded over the entire life of the system.