The most important factor in getting more consumers to use the Government’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) will be medical provider-friendly software that will be released by the end of October, a Senate Estimates Committee has been told.
Heath & Ageing secretary Jane Halton told the Committee yesterday that she was "delighted" with the early numbers of consumers registering for the $628.3 million initiative since it launched on July 1.
As of midnight 16 October, she revealed that 13,340 consumers had signed up for a personally-controlled record.
However, this figure appeared dwarfed by the official targets for PCEHR registration in 2012-13, which are set at 500,000 users.
“We are only at the point of having the GP software available,” Halton said.
“Despite that we are getting the numbers every day and realise -- goodness me, people really want this. It is amazing.”
Health & Ageing deputy secretary Rosemary Huxtable said the 500,000 figure was for operational planning purposes so the Department could have a sense of where it is heading in the first year of operation.
Overall numbers were just one metric, she said, with other metrics such as breakdowns of the type of participants also relevant to measuring success.
She said the focus was on those that would benefit most from a PCEHR, such as those with chronic diseases, newborns, and indigenous and older Australians.
"That has been the focus -- and we are driving toward that," Huxtable said.
The availability of desktop software for general practitioners is expected to drive an uptick in the rate of user registration, Halton said.
In addition, the availability of certified third-party software tools, such as those made by Pen Computer Systems, HIE and (shortly) Best Practice, are also driving patient data into the PCEHR scheme.
The National E-Health Transition Authority's chief executive Peter Fleming agreed that the 2012-13 targets were achievable.
Fleming said desktop GP vendors, which represent 98 percent of the market for providers, are all aiming to have PCEHR functionality built into their products by October 31.
Further indications of progress were that 791,764 Medicare documents had been uploaded to PCEHR as at 30 September 2012. These covered MBS, PBS claims, organ donation registry records and immunisation records.