Cutting the red tape in Australian healthcare

Doug Hendrie

3/04/2018 2:26:46 PM

The Federal Government’s Select Committee on Red Tape has handed down its report into healthcare. Here’s why that matters for Australian GPs.

Dr Nathan Pinskier, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee on eHealth and Practice Systems, addressed the Select Committee on Red Tape in February.
Dr Nathan Pinskier, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee on eHealth and Practice Systems, addressed the Select Committee on Red Tape in February.

Imagine beginning your working week, knowing that you will effectively lose one full day to red tape.
That is the reality for Australia’s GPs who, according to the Select Committee on Red Tape’s ‘Effect of red tape on health services’, report they spend an average of 20% of their time on red tape and administration. Red tape reduces direct clinical time, and the resultant cost in time, dollars and inconvenience is significant.
As the world accelerates into the digital age – including GP clinics – much of Australia’s healthcare system still relies on complex paper forms, written signatures and faxes. Government departments and hospitals still – in 2018 – request faxed documents. For GPs, that means printing out their electronic copies and faxing them, only to have the faxes scanned in at the other end.
What can be done?
For Dr Nathan Pinskier, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee on eHealth and Practice Systems (REC–eHPS), the answer is simple: move away from what he calls an ‘archaic system.’ Move to digital. Streamline identifiers and forms. Ensure new regulations and legislation does not create more red tape for GPs.
At the hearing of the Federal Government’s Select Committee in February, Dr Pinskier outlined the issue – and offered possible solutions. 
‘General practice is predominantly electronic at both an administrative and a clinical level, yet it interacts with a healthcare world that still relies heavily on paper and faxes,’ he told the Committee. ‘To state the obvious, this is out of step with the massive changes that have occurred in other sectors of the economy.’
Dr Pinskier described the frustration of many GPs trying to negotiate different government systems, which were often not in synch.
‘There's a whole lot of bureaucracy. Just to register a document in the system in my practice takes 15 forms. That is 15 forms to complete just to get the documents into the system,’ he said. ‘Everyone says, “Yes, that's terrible”, but nothing ever gets done about it.
‘We have a great opportunity as part of the digital transformation and the current review of Medicare's claims and payments back-end processes to streamline all this and reduce it down to the minimum number of numbers that we need to run an efficient and effective system.’
One key point made by Dr Pinskier has been taken up in the Committee’s interim report, which recommends that the number of identifiers issued to healthcare providers be streamlined across federal and state governments.
The report also recommends that the Department of Health investigate the merits of allowing private health funds to fund out-of-hospital care. The RACGP is on record as saying it does not support private health insurance being used to fund services already funded through Medicare.
The Committee will hand down a final report in December.

red-tape Select-Committee-on-Red-Tape


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M.g.hayes   4/04/2018 7:22:55 AM

The public servants won’t change unless it means more work for them. At present they just get the silly GP to do it. Years ago some colleagues developed an unofficial response of “passive resistance” wherein all (in this case workers compensation red tape forms) were not filled out completely. The consequent paper jam terrified the somnolent public servant as the patient complaints were directed to them.
Then and only then was the red tape-paper war improve