The man tasked with reviewing the government’s personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR), Richard Royle, said he and his team have no plans to “kill off” the scheme.
Royle, who heads up the Queensland operations of private healthcare provider UnitingCare, has been asked by new federal health minister Peter Dutton to chair an inquiry into the PCEHR rollout commenced by Dutton’s Labor predecessors.
The intention of the review is to address usability issues and to boost clinical confidence in the system, Royle told attendees at Friday's Health Informatics Society of Australia conference.
He said he would also have to remain mindful of the government’s expenditure on the new technology going forward.
Last Friday, Royle revealed that due to the time constraints placed on the review, he and the review panel would begin by inviting submissions from 210 organisations and individuals who had taken part in consultations on the PCEHR in the past.
“In addition the [review] panel will have more detailed meetings with a number of key stakeholders to assist the panel to gain the views of those people most closely involved with the system," Royle said.
"These stakeholders will include IT, clinical, and consumer representatives."
In particular, Royle said, the PCEHR should be seen as an opportunity to leverage data analytics for the development of a “true population health model” nationally.
Population health refers to a specific approach to healthcare which focuses on understanding the spread and frequency of health and disease in the community, particularly disparities in health status between social groups.
“We are trying to manage the population’s needs,” he explained.
“Epic and Cerner are two software providers who have done a lot of work in the area of health predictive analytics, and the interesting part of this is how it could be linked with a personally controlled electronic record, which is a huge piece we have to start thinking through.
“What this would essentially be doing is taking the personally controlled electronic health record to another level,” he said.
Now is the ideal time for governments to adopt a long-term and co-ordinated approach to population health for achieving better outcomes, Royle said.
“This is not a political comment, it is a realistic comment, but I think the benefit we have right now is that in both Queensland and Canberra I believe that we will see least two more terms for the current governments.
“Those parliamentarians have the opportunity if they want to take it to assume a longer term view of health initiatives. One of the biggest problems in health is that governments are always working in terms of three years,” he said.
Royle promoted the construction of UnitingCare’s federally-funded Hervey Bay private hospital, which he described as Australia’s “first fully integrated digital hospital” as a model for the optimisation of clinical IT.
“I clearly see the opportunity to use the successful implementation of this into the development of a population health model.
“I’m already having conversations at both the federal and state government levels, in advance because developing true population health is a true long-term play.
“What I am saying is that you’re already investing taxpayers' money with me at Hervey Bay. Let’s take it to the next level,” he said, adding that Dutton had already expressed an interest in the project.
Meanwhile in Sydney, outgoing NSW Health CIO and vocal PCEHR advocate Greg Wells used his address to colleagues to encourage everyone to sign up for a health record.
“Be a participant. Get a record,” he said. “Get your kids a record and write to Peter Dutton to say that this is something you want.”