As part of our involvement in the National eHealth Transition Authority’s (NeHTA) aged care software vendor panel, we have collaborated with a group of aged care organisations to implement the software that will allow their facilities to access the national eHealth system.
The journey has inspired us to step back and take a closer look at some of the key challenges faced by these aged care organisations as they prepared to connect their facilities to the eHealth system. This is the second part in this series, whereby Donwood Community Aged Care, Lynden Aged Care and mecwacare continue to share the challenges, as well as tips for other aged care providers embarking on the eHealth journey.
While selling the benefits of eHealth to residents is one challenge, physically registering residents for an eHealth record is another. Restrictions around use of the Assisted Registration Tool are creating significant difficulties for aged care providers.
Michele Lewis: We can assist residents to register for an eHealth record but there are some very strict rules around assisting people to do so. The main one is that you need to use the Assisted Registration Tool that is provided by the government, but you can only sign up residents who are able to give consent and the parameters are currently unclear. The issue is, once people get to aged care, they are not necessarily cognitively intact, which causes challenges.
- If the individual is capable of providing consent, then an eHealth record can be applied for using the Assisted Registration Tool online, in writing, over the phone and in person by visiting a Service Centre offering Medicare Services.
- When the individual is cognitively impaired or incapable of providing consent, a Power of Attorney may register for an eHealth record on their behalf. An eHealth record can be applied for in writing, or in person by visiting a Service Centre offering Medicare Services.
- In a case where an individual is cognitively impaired or incapable of providing consent, a carer – who is considered to be an appropriate person based on their relationship with the adult dependant – register for an eHealth record on their behalf. However, evidence is required to verify that the adult dependant is not capable of making their own decisions.
Buy-in from the wider health care sector
At the beginning of September 2013, there were just over 5,000 General Practices registered with the eHealth system, with over 900,000 individuals registered for an eHealth record. The next challenge for the system is in actively using the capability and ensuring that information is shared between the wider health care sector. While Shared Health Summaries and Hospital Discharge Summaries will provide the bulk of health information for each resident, the Event Summary will also be hugely important for aged care.
Michele Lewis: The usefulness of the eHealth record system will be determined over time, and the full benefits will only be realised once the uptake starts to gain momentum with others across the entire health sector. Obviously, if the hospitals and GPs are on board and they start to upload patient information and the information is current and up-to-date, we will then start to use the system more effectively. We all want to have access to this information electronically but it seems as though everyone is waiting for next person to get the ball rolling!
Ann Turnbull: At the end of the day, I think the uptake will largely be driven by GPs. It will certainly be a turning point when GPs actively start leveraging the eHealth system. It will encourage more people to register for their own PCEHR and that way, we will see more residents already signed up before they even come into a facility, which would be ideal. I’m actually anticipating that we will be able to interact with GPs quite well. Currently, about 70 percent of our residents come from the one local clinic, which I believe is undergoing the preparation process for eHealth as we speak.
Our tips: Don’t wait! The success of the eHealth system will depend largely on uptake by all medical and non-medical associates including aged care providers, GPs, pharmacists, specialists and allied health professionals. The eHealth system will arrive at a standstill if each section of the healthcare sector is reliant on the rest of the industry to be the driver of the uptake. The tip here is to lead by example and take the steps to prepare your own organisation for eHealth now.
Ensuring your technology is compatible with eHealth
The last thing you will want to be faced with after undergoing this process, is finding out that your existing systems are unable to handle the transition to eHealth.
Michele Lewis: Make sure your software provider is valid, authorised with the correct certificates and has the capacity to link to the eHealth system. Also check the software and programs you use; hardware and equipment such as computers and laptops; internet connections; and any other technology that may play a role in the process to make sure your hardware capabilities can also handle the shift.
Our tips: You’ll want the benefit of partnering with a provider whose software is PCEHR-compliant, and supports additional eHealth standards. Ask your provider if their software solutions are compatible and fit for sharing with the eHealth record system.
Despite the number of challenges the aged care sector faces in preparing for eHealth, there are a number of notable benefits that will come with a national eHealth system. Above all, electronic health records will give the aged care sector the ability to access up-to-date information about a resident in real time, and share this knowledge with the acute sector including hospitals, GPs and specialists to greatly improve care outcomes.
For more information about eHealth in Australia, visit the useful links below:
(Image credit: Danilo Rizzuti)