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Medical association concerned over PCEHR draft legislation

The industry body says the proposal fails to address the issue of availability of critical information for practitioners

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has raised concerns that the federal government's released draft of legislation for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) still fails to address the availability of critical information for practitioners.

AMA federal vice president, Steve Hambleton, told Computerworld Australia the government's nominated healthcare providers, which includes medical practitioners, nurses, aboriginal health practitioners and others, remained a concern for the system's success.

"We'd prefer to start with medical practitioners to get used to the system and get it up and running and then widen it after that if it seems suitable," Hambleton said.

According to Hambleton, easing into the system with medical practitioners initially would prevent severe cash penalties being imposed on those ignorant of the rules due to unfamiliarity with the new system.

"It's important that there are penalties but we don't want to see people inadvertently breaching the rules and incurring significant fines because they're ignorant of the rules.

"If there's wilful breaching of privacy then that needs to be sanctioned but there are severe penalties and lots of rules around that, we have to have a secure system, that's absolutely true."

Hambleton also said the penalties could potentially discourage participation in the system for those who are unsure and reiterated the need for an 'opt-out' system as opposed to 'opt-in'.

"Our view to opt-out rather than opt-in was one of the things we were pushing for to make sure people are confident that there's something in the system," he said.

"If you look at the object of the legislation, it's to reduce the occurrence of adverse medical events and the duplication of treatment but if the patient hasn't registered it's not going to happen or if the patient hasn't given the treating doctor the information it's not going to happen either."

In addition, the ability for the patient to limit access, even for the treating doctor, will hinder confidence that what they're seeing is the whole record, Hambleton said.

"We need to make sure that when people do see the record they have confidence in it, even the person who is the nominated healthcare provider; the next provider needs to be confident that they are a reliable source."

The draft legislation calls for public submission on the proposed framework of the $466.7 million project.

The legislation will provide the framework for the security and privacy of the system and has proposed additional penalties be imposed for misuse of the system.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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