The Aged Care IT Vendors Association has merged with the Medical Software Industry Association in a bid to strengthen their position in aged care and health reform discussions that have significant IT implications.

There have been ongoing complaints about a lack of engagement with aged care IT vendors by the Department, with vendors either finding out after the event of new reforms being rolled out or being given unreasonable short notice to provide input.

It also hopefully means that the reality of what ‘aged care’ actually is and the IT support it needs will be better understood as it gets a larger seat at the eHealth table, PulseIT said in this article about the merger last week.

“The software providers who specialise in residential aged and community care have had to adapt to the new way of doing things – or in many cases lead those changes – but as always, aged care tends to be the forgotten child of the wider industry when it comes to things like eHealth. There are some who believe that it should in fact be the first port of call.”

This includes the ongoing development of My Health Record.

“There are many who still believe the PCEHR would have had a bit more success had it been rolled out to aged care rather than general practice first, encompassing those who do need a shared care record rather than the vast swathes of healthy people in the general community who don’t. We also still think a transfer document would be invaluable on the record for those moving from residential aged care to hospital and back again,” the PulseIT article said.

Last month the Department of Health told Inside Ageing that The Australian Digital Health Agency has held discussions with residential care providers about the My Health Record system and its benefits for RACFs and their residents and continues to engage with vendors of My Health Record-compatible IT software.

However, concerns over who can update the record and ensuring it is up to date remain unaddressed.

“We have been assisting those RACFs that do not have software connected to the My Health Record system, to connect them to the provider portal so they can view their patients’ records,” the Department spokesperson said.

But while nurses and other health professionals can view the record and add event summaries, only GPs, hospitals and consumers can add information and view the entire document.

“This is to ensure the integrity of the clinical documents made available in the My Health Record for other treating healthcare providers,” the Department spokesperson said.

Despite the obvious benefits to people’s health outcomes if My Health Record was to be used properly and consistently in residential aged care, particularly in the event that a person needs to be hospitalised, a spokesperson for the Digital Health Agency has said providers will not be compensated for the time it takes to set residents up with My Health Records or keep them updated.

Just 172 residential care facilities have registered for My Health Record. There is no breakdown of home care providers.

“There are no plans for incentives to be made available to healthcare providers to provide assisted registration for their patients, including those in residential care.”

“Most general practices have software already embedded into their local clinical information systems that enable them to register their patients for My Health Record.”

“As long as the patient is already aware of the My Health Record system and its benefits, the registration process can be completed within minutes,” she said.

Which is all well and good but at what point do multiple event summary entries trigger a clinical review of the patient, Inside Ageing asked the Department.

“This generally occurs in the clinical setting between a patient and their authorised healthcare provider,” a spokesperson responded.

Which means there is no trigger. Someone could have multiple event summary entries and until the GP conducts review – which would only be prompted by either another event, a diligent nurse or carer requesting a review or the GP doing a follow up consultation – event summaries will just keep accruing.

While there is discussion about making My Health Records opt-out rather than opt-in and introducing a My Health Record app, high registration does not automatically translate to high utilisation.

It is clear that far more engagement with both vendors and both home care and residential care providers is needed.