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General practices hit by Medicare claiming outage


Jolyon Attwooll


15/03/2023 4:10:42 PM

The issues were caused by a planned system upgrade, according to Services Australia – but practices say they received no warning.

Person paying at clinic reception
Many practices are still playing administration catch up after the Services Australia outage.

General practices around the country have been affected by a Services Australia outage this week, causing delays in Medicare, PBS and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) online claiming.
 
Lyndy Ronan, a nurse and practice owner at the Yarrawonga Medical Centre, said she became aware of the issue on Monday, which was a public holiday in Victoria, when the outage was highlighted on a Facebook network for practice managers.
 
She said the issue continued on their return to work on Tuesday.
 
‘On and off all day, we couldn’t access Medicare,’ Ms Ronan told newsGP, adding that the practice had received no advance warning of any potential issues.
 
‘The only way I knew about it was from my Facebook page, not from any correspondence from e-business, or Medicare or the health insurance commission,’ she said.
 
As well as Medicare claiming, Ms Ronan said practice staff could not carry out Online Patient Verifications, with the issues affecting access to the PRODA online identity verification and authentication system as well as the Australian Immunisation Register.
 
‘It was an extra workload for my staff, we couldn’t batch up all of our Medicare claims,’ she said.
 
‘[It was] my poor receptionists who bore the brunt of it.’
 
According to Ms Ronan, the length of the outage was unusual.
 
‘From time to time it will just drop out. Normally, it’s only for an hour or two, and they’ll send an apology email but this time there was nothing.’
 
The technical issues now appear to have been resolved, with Services Australia confirming on Wednesday the system is again ‘fully operational’.
 
However, Dr Ken McCroary, a GP in south-west Sydney, said his practice is still trying to catch up, with the issue affecting the billing of hundreds of patients.
 
‘All claims for 48 hours were pretty much not going through,’ he told newsGP.
 
‘My staff are still trying to sort it out. We have spent about 25% of admin time over the past two days having to do extra to deal with this issue.
 
‘I’ve spoken to the IT people who were also smashed by their practices all calling in a panic.’
 
Services Australia sent a message for distribution to impacted organisations, including general practices, pharmacies and hospitals, on the evening of 14 March.
 
‘Medicare, DVA and PBS online claiming is gradually returning to maximum capacity following a planned system update over the weekend,’ they stated.
 
‘Some of your patients may experience delays in having their rebates processed while we return to maximum capacity.
 
‘Claim processing will return to normal as soon as possible.
 
‘You will be able to re-submit any transactions that cannot be processed immediately. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused you and your patients.’
 
In a further response to a newsGP inquiry about the scale of the impact, a Services Australia spokesperson said planned system upgrades had caused ‘a small backlog of claims and slower than normal response times for some health professionals, hospitals and pharmacies’.
 
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Dr Stephen H   16/03/2023 8:31:59 AM

My NBN provider manages to warn me a week in advance of any "planned outage" for upgrades, usually in the wee hours of the morning, and if there's unplanned outages I get regular updates. Medicare really is unfit for purpose in so many ways.