GP Network News, Issue 10, Number 44 - 10 December 2010

10 Dec 2010

After Hours Technical Working Group

The first meeting of the After Hours Technical Working Group set up to provide the Department of Health and Ageing with feedback on the after hours reforms and high level advice on their implementation was held this week.  Dr Brian Morton, Chair of AMA Council of General Practice, attended as the AMA representative. 

Discussions were constructive and informative with a focus on preserving and complementing existing after hours coverage while ensuring equity of access. 

Still, greater clarity around funding arrangements and how Medicare Locals will function is needed.

Diabetes Advisory Group meets

The Diabetes Advisory Group, set up to provide advice to the Department of Health and Ageing on constructing the Coordinated Diabetes Care Plan pilot, met for the first time this week. AMA Vice President, Dr Steve Hambleton, attended as the AMA representative. 

The AMA pointed out the enormity of the task and raised all of the issues it had raised previously about the funding model as well as making recommendations in relation to design of the trial.

The AMA believes it is important that the trial outcomes are as reliable as possible.

BEACH 2009-10

The AIHW released its 2009-10 BEACH study this week.  This is the 12th report of the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program. Some of the findings of the report are that:

  • 83% of the population sees a GP at least once a year
  • 9% of GP attendances involve seeing a practice nurse - up from 4% in 05-06
  • problems managed per 100 encounters continue to increase (now 153 up from 151 last year) with chronic problems accounting for 35% of all problems managed
  • 79% of GPs, up from 71.3% last year, worked in a practice that employed one or more practice nurses
  • Both the mean and median length of MBS/DVA consultations are slightly up with the mean being 15.3 minutes (was 15.1 last year) and the median 14 minutes (was 13 last year)
  • For an 'average' 100 encounters, GPs recorded 107 medications, 35 clinical treatments, 18 procedures, 9 referrals to specialists and 4 to allied health services, and ordered 45 pathology and 10 imaging tests

To view, download, or purchase a copy click here.

Also released this week was a web-based summary report of data from the past 10 years of BEACH highlighting major changes over that time.  Some of the changes include:

  • GPs have shifted away from solo practice to work in practices of 10 or more GPs
  • a significant decrease in the proportion of GPs working in practices that provide their own after hours patient care
  • patients are presenting with an increased number of reasons for their encounter
  • GP prescribing rates have decreased on average over the 10 years with 10 fewer prescriptions being written for every 100 problems managed

Click here to for the General practice activity in Australia 2000-01 to 2009-10: 10 year data tables.

AMA Plan to get the 'e-health revolution' started

AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that the Government should concentrate its efforts on delivering the most easily achievable aspects of an electronic medical record in order to get Australia's much-anticipated 'e-health revolution' started.

Dr Pesce said that the AMA has long been a supporter of the e-health agenda but it is time that people started seeing some results.

"The Government should concentrate all its efforts on getting pathology results, diagnostic imaging results, hospital discharge summaries, and medications dispensed information onto an electronic medical record," Dr Pesce said.

Click here for more.

Pathology services must be protected

AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said this week that the Government must be cautious and consultative when considering changes to the way pathology services are provided to the Australian community.

You would all be aware of the Federal Government’s policy to open up competition in the pathology sector by removing the Medicare requirement for pathology requests to be made to named providers.  The AMA's considerable efforts during the year to secure an amendment to the Health Insurance (Pathology Requests) Bill 2010 came to fruition in the final week of Parliament.  The Medicare arrangements will now ensure that when a treating medical practitioner wants a specific approved pathology provider to perform the service that provider must conduct the test, similar to the 'no substitute' arrangement for prescriptions.

Click here for the AMA press release on this matter.

New AMA Web Poll

The AMA is currently running a web poll to ascertain views on whether a shared electronic health record will be clinically useful to doctors.  To vote on this click here.

Medicare Provider Enquiry Line

Following consultation with the Health Professional Online Services and Provider Services Design Sub-committee, of which the AMA is a member, the options on the Medicare Provider Enquiry Line have been changed to better align with the reasons why health professionals call Medicare.  One of the significant new options is a service specifically for Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) interpretations. To support this change Medicare Australia's Service Officers have been provided with additional training, aimed at improving their skills and knowledge when dealing with complex MBS interpretation enquiries.

The phone options are now displayed on Medicare Australia's website.  Click here to view.

The AMA strongly suggests that, when obtaining an MBS interpretation, GPs should also request the advice be provided to them via an email.   

The AMA would welcome your feedback on your experiences with this new service.  Email as at 


We welcome your comments and suggestions as well.  Please tell us what you think.

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In this Issue

After Hours Technical Working Group

Diabetes Advisory Group meets

 BEACH 2009-10

AMA Plan to get the 'e-health revolution' started

Pathology services must be protected

New AMA Web Poll

Medicare Provider Enquiry Line

AMA members - Save up to 20% more on your I.T.

Email the AMA

Post new comment to the website

AMA is the peak medical organisation in Australia representing the profession’s interests to Government and the wider community.
Your Federal AMA General Practice Policy team can be contacted via email or by phone (02) 6270 5400
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