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New optical group secures major exclusive lens partner

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


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Improvements needed in healthcare communication: OA

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Optometry Australia (OA) has called on the Federal Government to improve digital communication systems so that patient information can be shared securely and more efficiently. 

OA chief executive officer Ms Genevieve Quilty told Insight that if the Australian Digital Health Agency committed to making secure message delivery interoperable, optometrists would not need to invest in several systems to communicate with GPs, ophthalmologists and other optometrists.

“Once secure message delivery systems are interoperable across providers, we would like to see secure messaging capability integrated into existing optometry clinical practice software so that the transfer of patient information is seamless and safe,” she added. 

Currently, secure messaging systems for optometrists are accessed through a secure web portal or a separate program. By comparison, secure messaging is integrated with all major general practice clinical software systems.

Ms Quilty stated that while general practice had received incentive payments from the Government to implement digital health technologies such as the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (now known as the My Health Record) and secure message delivery, no similar incentives had been extended to optometry to support the profession’s move to digitalised forms of communication. 

“[This is] disappointing given current government and community expectations, and something we will continue to raise at relevant forums,” Ms Quilty said. 

OA’s appeal follows the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ (RACGP) release of a position paper on the use of secure electronic communication within the healthcare system. 

The paper, which was published last week, called for all healthcare services and government agencies that communicated patient information with GPs to eliminate paper forms and faxes within the next three years and to replace them with secure digital communications.

“It is somewhat bizarre that in an advanced era of rapid and timely electronic communications many Australian healthcare organisations still use the fax machine as the most important document communications device,” RACGP president Dr Frank Jones commented.

“General practice has been equipped to communicate digitally for over a decade and we must embrace it now as the benefits for patients and practices will be enormous.”

Ms Quilty agreed that secure digital messaging offered numerous benefits to optometrists, including improvements for workflow efficiency and healthcare provider collaboration, in addition to added security and privacy for patient clinical information.

Regardless of whether information is communicated electronically or via paper, Ms Quilty advised, “Optometrists are obliged to act in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles and take reasonable steps to protect the patient’s personal information. 

“OA recommends all electronic transmission of sensitive information, such as sending a patient referral, is secured using a form of encryption,” she added. 
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Intraocular lens prices under review

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Federal Department of Health is to review pricing for products on its mandated fixed-price Prostheses List, including intraocular lenses (IOL), which are inserted after cataractous lenses are extracted.

Prices for products listed on the Prostheses List have not been changed since 2006, even though prices overseas have fallen.

The crux of the matter comes down to the substantial differences in prices to private versus public patients for the same medical device, with prices to major public hospitals and large private hospitals who can negotiate bulk deals contributing to the situation. If a patient is provided with a listed prosthesis at a private hospital, it costs considerably more than if it is provided at a public hospital.

Private health insurance funds have blamed the price discrepancy on suppliers, calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate the high prices the funds are being charged for prostheses such as IOLs, internal heart defibrillators, cardiac pacemakers, coronary stents, and knee replacements. However, ACCC chairman Mr Rod Sims said on 23 September that the Commission would await the results of the Federal Government review before considering an investigation into the concerns.

The health funds cited an IOL used in more than 6,000 private procedures in Australia during 2015 as costing $374 versus $88 in the UK and $33 in Turkey. Another example was an internal heart defibrillator costing $52,000 locally compared to $28,040 in the UK, $22,460 in Ireland, $19,284 in Portugal, $16,645 in the Czech Republic, and $15,318 in Sweden.

The funds maintained that they could save $800 million if the prices on the Prostheses List were reformed, which would lead to lower premiums.

The Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) opposed the funds’ claims, with then chief executive officer, Ms Susi Tegen (a former CEO of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists), speaking out against a reduction in prices for prostheses. 

She pointed out that while health-fund premiums had increased significantly, the price of medical devices had not.

Clinicians should be at the centre of specifying patient care, not health insurers, Ms Tegen said. 

Soon after, in an unconnected move, Ms Tegen resigned from her position at the MTAA, citing health grounds.

Some of the MTAA’s members include the large American diversified health suppliers Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic.

Private Healthcare Australia, which covers larger health funds, insisted the facts spoke for themselves: that Australian private patients are paying too much for medical devices compared to public patients and comparable international markets. 
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