A network of general practitioner doctors has called for $31 million in funding into electronic health projects to be allocated in the next Federal Government budget.
The Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) represents 110 general practice networks, in addition to eight state-based networks. It claims that more than 90 percent of general practitioner doctors are members of their local general practice network.
In a broader submission to the next Federal Budget released this month, AGPN said e-health initiatives such as the E-Health Support Office Program (EHSOP) — which was initiated in 2005 and has been funded until June 2010 — had aided the network in increasing the uptake of e-health infrastructure across the health care sector.
However, the group said, barriers such as the lack of a nationally consistent approach to e-health, fragmented funding and variable levels of e-health literacy had resulted in an e-health landscape which, “while containing pockets of excellence”, lacked consistency.
The AGPN praised the Federal Government’s recently unveiled National E-Health Strategy as a remedy for these ills.
However, it claimed, the success of the strategy would be reliant on GPs adopting e-health initiatives — an aim that the organisation recommended be targeted by expanding EHSOP to incorporate 60 e-health officers working at the GP level as “change agents”.
Such a program would cost $31 million over three years, the AGPN estimated, and have a number of marked benefits that would aid in reaching the goals of the National E-Health Strategy.
“The proposed program will enable the Network, as a whole to fulfil its crucial role in supporting the ‘change and adoption’ strategic stream of activity of the National E-Health Strategy and move primary health care towards the more e-connected future required to implement the proposed health reforms,” the group wrote.
The call comes amid heightened national interest in the e-health issue due to the mid-February move by the Federal Government to introduce into parliament legislation to introduce a National Health Identifier to be implemented by the middle of 2010. The plan will be shepherded by Medicare and the National E-Health Transition Authority.