7 Feb 2012


Shared Electronic Health Records

An e-health system that connects patient information across health care settings, and which can be accessed and contributed to by treating medical practitioners and other health practitioners will improve the safety and quality of medical care in Australia.

The benefits of e-health in making the best use of existing health care services and avoiding errors, duplication and waste are well known. To treating medical practitioners, e-health means being able to access all of the clinically relevant medical information about a patient at the time of diagnosis or treatment.

Personally controlled electronic health records (PCEHRs) empower and encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own health, but their use may be limited for medical practitioners in terms of their accessibility, content, accuracy, and the comprehensiveness of information.

Health care of the patient is best served when the medical practitioner has access to the most basic information that is critical to patient care – pathology and diagnostic imaging results, hospital discharge summaries, and information on medications dispensed.

Medicare rebates for GP video consultations

The Government’s new telehealth arrangements have the potential to improve access to quality medical services for people in rural, remote, and outer metropolitan areas over time. The AMA welcomed the Government’s decision to fund video consultations for referred specialist consultations, and the funding to encourage medical practices to set up facilities to provide video consultations.

Telehealth could considerably enhance access to general practitioner services for specific patient groups and deliver productivity gains in general practice.

The delivery of health services to Indigenous populations in remote Australia is almost exclusively through remote health centres. Medical care is provided by specialised general practitioners who reside in urban centres such as Darwin or Alice Springs. These practitioners could enhance their face-to-face care of Indigenous populations with video consultations from urban centres to remote health centres.

The AMA has highlighted the problems with ongoing access to medical care for residents of aged care facilities for many years. The telehealth initiative provides incentives for aged care providers to set up video conferencing facilities. It is extremely inefficient for these facilities to be used only for referred specialist consultations. Medicare rebates for GP video consultations to residents of aged care facilities will improve the efficiency of providing follow up care by general practitioners, and ensure full use is made of the video consultation infrastructure in aged care funded by Government.

Similarly, there are rural, remote and outer metropolitan patients who have difficulty attending general practices because of mobility problems or because of distance. Medicare rebates for GP video consultations to these patients will improve the efficiency of providing follow up care by general practitioners, and ensure full use is made of the video consultation infrastructure funded by Government.


Shared Electronic Health Records must:


  • contain reliable and relevant medical information about individuals;
  • align with clinical workflows and integrate with existing medical practice software;
  • be governed by a single national entity; and
  • be fully funded by Government, and supported by appropriate incentives, education and training.


Extending the MBS telehealth items to general practitioner consultations for remote Indigenous Australians, aged care residents, people with mobility problems and rural people who live some distance from general practitioners will considerably improve access to medical care for these groups.