The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

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Survey finds difficulties accessing patient records leads to unnecessary tests

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has recently reported on the findings of a 2018 nationwide survey conducted by Choosing Wisely Australia. The survey into “Why health professionals request a test, treatment or procedure” found that 54% of general practitioners and 61% of specialists listed difficulties in accessing information from doctors in other settings, including results as a contributing factor into undertaking unnecessary treatment.

The results demonstrate that the challenges faced in accessing records could be a significant contributor to undertaking avoidable tests, treatments and procedures. According to CEO of Choosing Wisely Australia, there is a drive to improve communication across care settings and ultimately reduce unnecessary medical treatment and tests.

Read RACGP’s news alert here and the results of the survey and report here.

AMA and AHHA unimpressed by government fees website proposal

The Federal Government has announced plans to launch a national strategy to address excessive out-of-pocket fees charged by medical specialists. Following the release of a Ministerial Advisory Committee Report this month, the Government has proposed to fund a searchable website that provides transparency on specialists’ fees and an education campaign to promote medical financial literacy. The Government website will also publicise existing de-identified data showing a range of fees and out-of-pocket expenses charged by specialists for any given treatment, allowing patients to make informed choices. Click here to read Government’s official press release.

Although this initiative has been welcomed by both the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA), both organisations have identified serious gaps, highlighting the need for the website to provide additional information.

According to the AHHA, it is necessary to address ‘exorbitant’ and unexpected out-of-pocket costs charged by some specialists, which cause patients distress and financial hardship, particularly in the management of pregnancy, assisted reproductive services, radiation oncology and intraocular injections. In addition, the AHHA has emphasised the importance of disclosing the potential full costs of unanticipated ‘extras’, such as the costs of tests and other healthcare members, and a scale of out-of-pocket costs in advance. Read the AHHA’s media release here.

The AMA has stated that in order to offer patients real benefits, transparency must extend to the inclusion of Medicare and health insurance rebates for each procedure. The AMA has also criticised the low rebates provided under the Medicare Benefit Schedule and many health insurance policies. For more information on the AMA’s position, click here.

Health and wellbeing on Queensland Parliament’s agenda

On 28 February 2019, Health and Ambulance Services Minister Steven Miles, introduced a bill into Parliament to establish a health promotion agency, called Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQ). One of the main objectives of the bill is to establish new ways to address levels of obesity and chronic disease within Queensland.

HWQ is designed to be an independent statutory body, which will operate in partnership with relevant organisations across the health sector to promote better eating, becoming active, and healthier environments.

HWQ will also be involved in facilitating investments and activities to grow partnerships with sectors which are not traditionally linked to health or health care services. This may include sporting clubs, parenting groups and local government.

The bill is expected to be debated in Parliament in May 2019.

Read the Queensland Government’s Media Statement here and the Bill here.

Ethical Principles for AI in Medicine

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) has developed a draft Ethical Principles for artificial intelligence (AI) aimed at guiding the ethical development of AI technology in medicine, particularly for clinical radiology and radiation oncology (Draft Principles).

The Draft Principles outline the most appropriate use of AI and machine learning, including how both can successfully help drive even better patient care.

The Draft Principles discuss eight ethical principles for guiding the development of standards of practice for AI research and the deployment of AI tools in medicine.

The full Draft Principles are for public consultation on the RANZCR's website here. Comments from the public will be accepted by the close of business on 26 April 2019.

Removing Barriers in healthcare for people affected by HIV

On 1 March 2019, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) launched a new learning tool for addressing the stigma and discrimination faced by HIV affected people in healthcare. The launch coincided with Zero Discrimination Day, a day designated by the United Nations to advocate for a change in discriminatory laws or policies.

The online learning tool, named Removing Barriers, provides targeted training to healthcare professionals to review and improve their work practices which may be discriminatory to people affected by HIV, hepatitis B or C.

The tool aims to enable health practitioners to understand where stigma and discrimination come from by including firsthand accounts of affected people as well as other formal publications. The next steps require the practitioner to examine barriers to inclusive practice in their workplace and practice, and make a change.

Access the Removing Barriers learning tool here.