GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 29

26 Jul 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

AMA rapt with Coalition scrap the cap call

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said this week that the Coalition has shown a strong commitment to education and medical excellence with its call on the Government to scrap the proposed cap on work-related self-education expenses.

Dr Hambleton said the AMA strongly welcomes the Coalition call to scrap the cap, which is effectively a tax on learning.

The Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training, Christopher Pyne, made the call following a meeting with a Scrap the Cap Alliance delegation, which included Dr Hambleton.

Dr Hambleton said the AMA and the Alliance have been lobbying the Government for months to publicly guarantee that genuine professional development such as medical training would be exempt from the proposed tax changes.

“The proposed cap on self-education would be a huge disincentive for doctors, especially young doctors and rural doctors, to improve their skills and provide better medical care to their patients and communities.

“The AMA is pleased that Shadow Minister Pyne and the Coalition have recognised the harm that would be caused by the cap and have now joined the growing chorus to scrap it,” Dr Hambleton said

The AMA is a founding member of the Scrap the Cap Alliance, which now has more than 60 member organisations covering more than 1.6 million professionals, including universities, nurses, engineers, accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, allied health professionals, and small business operators.

More information on the Scrap the Cap Alliance and campaign.

Full media release.

AMA advocates better chronic and complex disease plan

Chronic disease is estimated to be responsible for around 80 per cent of the total burden of disease and accounts for 70 per cent of health expenditure. The AMA is urging the Federal Government to improve the treatment of people with complex and chronic disease in primary care by adopting the AMA’s Chronic Disease Plan: Improving Care for Patients with Chronic and Complex Care Needs.

Dr Hambleton said the plan enhances existing arrangements and supports patients to spend more time with their family doctor when they need to. It provides patients with streamlined access to a broad range of allied health and other support services, and it supports a more proactive approach to the delivery of care.

“Family doctors are highly trained general health specialists, and are in the best position to ensure patients with chronic and complex diseases get the care they need,” Dr Hambleton said.

View the AMA Chronic Disease Plan: Improving Care for Patients with Chronic and Complex Care Needs.

Patient-Centred Medical Home Survey Report

The AMA recently conducted a survey to identify GPs opinions about the concept of the ‘patient-centred medical home’ (or simply ‘medical home’) and its possible effects if formally introduced into Australian general practice. The findings of that survey have now been released.

The AMA acknowledges that the Government is still in the process of considering the medical home concept and is keen to hear the views of GPs on the topic. The findings of this survey will help inform AMA policy, noting that the AMA will resist any moves by the Government to use the concept as a means to deliver capitation/fund holding in general practice.

The key findings of the report are:

  • More than half of the GPs surveyed agree that the term ‘medical home’ is an appropriate description of general practice in primary care.
  • Nearly three-quarters of the GPs surveyed believe the AMA should support the medical home model, provided that linkages are voluntary and reversible, and that the ability of the doctor to charge on a fee-for-service basis is maintained.
  • GPs support the voluntary registration of patients at a practice, but strongly oppose compulsory registration.
  • More than half of the GPs surveyed believe that they could manage the needs of their patients with chronic disease and co-morbidities more effectively with a defined patient population.
  • GPs are uncertain whether an annual registration fee would be an appropriate means of charging for the cost of non face-to-face work done for patients.
  • More than three-quarters of GPs surveyed indicate some level of concern that the government will use the medical home concept to change the way general practice is funded.

More information on the AMA Patient-Centred Medical Home Survey Report.

Medical practitioners hit by a hike in registration fees

The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) has lifted its registration fee for the period 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014 to $695 – a rise roughly in line with the annual 2.5 per cent increase in the consumer price index.

Board Chair Dr Joanna Flynn said that limiting the increase to the rate of the CPI demonstrated the regulator’s commitment to prudent financial management. The fee hike came as Dr Flynn reported an increase in the number of complaints being dealt with by the Board. While the MBA is yet to divulge details of the rise in complaints, Dr Flynn said handling them was a significant cost for the regulator.

Adding to the complexity, the Queensland Government has made a stunning intervention into the system regulating doctors, dismissing the Queensland Board of the Medical Board of Australia and announcing plans to appoint a Health Ombudsman to receive and act on complaints against practitioners. Dr Flynn said the intervention was a worrying development that carried the risk of uneven and inconsistent standards across the country, and would also leave Queensland practitioners out of pocket.

To find out more, read next Monday’s edition of Australian Medicine.

Moving forward with e-health care

Internet video consultations are not yet widely used in Australia, but there is potential for greater uptake if doctors are better supported to adopt online technology, a recent study by Curtin University has found. Professor Moyez Jiwa, Chair of Health Innovation in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin, said that the research demonstrated that more investment is needed to encourage doctors to adopt digital technology into their regular patient consultations in rural and regional areas. He added that video consultation techniques would also need to be taught in medical schools.

To help improve access to medical care and increase the uptake of e-health technology, the AMA is calling on both major political parties in the lead up to the Federal Election to extend MBS video consultation items to GP consultations for remote Indigenous Australians, aged care residents, people with mobility problems and rural people who live some distance from GPs.

Another opportunity for e-health care, and one that could support a case for Medicare rebates for e-health services, arises from a study conducted by the University of Tasmania, titled Supervised Patient Self-Testing of Warfarin Therapy Using an Online System, showing that patients can achieve significant improvements in therapeutic INR control when using an online system for monitoring their INR results and sharing them with their doctor. In the study, patients self-tested once a week using a portable INR monitor and entered their results on a secure website for their doctor to review and provide dosage adjustments via email. Doctors spent around 1-3 minutes reviewing the results and both patients and doctors viewed the system favourably.

Curtin University media release Study shows doctors need support to adopt online technology.

Journal of Medical Internet Research 2013: online article Supervised Patient Self-Testing of Warfarin Therapy Using an Online System.

Record Keeping

Accurate and up-to-date records are essential to providing quality primary health care, particularly in situations involving multidisciplinary team care and with the increasing use of e-health technology. Accurate records are a requirement of all medical practitioners claiming benefits under the Health Insurance Act. They may also assist if you are ever asked to participate in an Australian Taxation audit, Medicare compliance audit or for accreditation purposes. They reduce the risk of receiving incorrect Medicare payments and also enable you to provide adequate evidence to substantiate claims.

To make it easier for health professionals to assess and maintain good administrative record keeping standards within their practice, Medicare has developed a booklet titled Administrative Record Keeping Guidelines.

The RACGP has also developed a new resource titled Quality health records in Australian primary healthcare: a guide. The guide sets out common expectations of quality health records. It covers electronic, paper-based and hybrid health record systems, and in each section describes core principles, tips for compliance and clinical examples to illustrate application in day-to-day clinical practice.

Both these guidelines are available in the AMA GP Practice Desktop Support Toolkit. The AMA developed the GP Desktop Practice Support Toolkit as a one-stop shop for commonly used practice support tools for general practitioners. The toolkit has links to about 300 administrative or diagnostic tools and will help reduce the time you spend locating relevant tools for administrative and diagnostic purposes.

Health Professionals’ Health Conference 2013

The 2013 Health Professionals’ Health Conference, themed Caring for you, caring for others, will be held on 3rd-5th October at the Sofitel Brisbane. This conference focuses on maximizing the health of the health professional from many different perspectives, to enable a positive cultural change that improves personal health, the ability to support the health of peers and care for patients. International and national experts will cover a broad range of topics including: being the treating health practitioner, mental and physical health, mandatory reporting, compassion fatigue, ageing and managing conflict. Don’t miss out on early bird registration, available until today, Friday 26 July – book now.

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus

The Department issues a weekly situation update on MERS coronavirus based on information from the WHO and other published sources. The latest update is available here.


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In this issue:

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. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing