Dr Oliver Frank cleverly noticed this piece of news from the AMA on Friday last week.
GP Network News Issue 09, Number 38 - 13 November 2009
13 November 2009 - 4:00pm
Scanning and storing electronic referrals and requests
Following Medicare Australia’s review of electronic referrals and requests, individual public key technology certificates are no longer required for provider-to-provider electronic referrals and requests. In addition, the requirement for independent third party verification for referrals or requests scanned for storage has been removed. This change is the result of discussions between Medicare Australia and its stakeholder consultative group, of which the AMA is a member.
The implication of this as I see it is to just make the whole process of referring from one doctor to another doctor or other provider (e.g. allied health) that much simpler than it has been to date for the referring doctor to be sure the referral will be honoured by Medicare Australia and a benefit paid to the recipient of the referral at the appropriate rate.
Note this in no way removes the need for referrals to use a secure, encrypted messaging environment to ensure security and privacy of the patient information. All that has been removed is the need to apply a digital signature – using PKI – to the referral.
As a second, and slightly confusing point, the specialist can now keep a scanned copy of a referral rather than the original paper without needed third party verification of the scan.
Both these steps should have the effect of reducing the ‘friction’ of information flows within the health sector and can thus only be seen as very good things.