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Provider Connect Australia

Angela Parker:
Hello everyone, welcome to today’s webinar on Provider Connect Australia. My name is Angela and I am a project officer from the RACGP’s Practice Technology and Management team.
Today’s webinar is delivered by the RACGP in partnership with the Australian Digital Health Agency and the Australian Association of Practice Management. It is an accredited CPD activity with both the RACGP and AAPM.
AAPM would like to acknowledge all Practice Managers that are on this webinar today.
Before we begin, we would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders past and present and emerging.
I would like to introduce our presenter, Kim Willcox, Director of Strategic Agency Programs at the Australian Digital Health Agency.
Kim’s qualifications are in foreign languages and linguistics and she has worked in international engagement roles in federal government for the portfolios of Defence and Education. She has also worked in strategic policy with the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health. This included work in the fields of primary care, immunisation, pharmaceutical benefits, mental health, aged care and private health.  Kim has been working with the Digital Health Agency since 2021.
Also joining us today is Dr Steven Kaye, Deputy Chair of the RACGP Practice Technology and Management Expert Committee, of which he has been a member since 2016. 
He has previously been the Deputy Chair of the Bayside Medicare Local and chair of the Bayside GP Network. Steven is a GP Registrar Supervisor for Eastern Victoria GP Training, an examiner for the RACGP fellowship and the Managing Partner of his General Practice in South East Melbourne.
Also joining us today is Katrina Pyle, AAPM QLD State President. Katrina has been in the AAPM QLD Committee for 5 years, has been a member of AAPM for 14 years and became a Fellow in 2017. Katrina has over 20 years’ experience as a Practice Manager and has spent the last 14 years working in a Bundaberg QLD General Practice. She has a special interest in IT, Clinical Data and Research, and is actively involved in testing clinical software and participating in clinical practice research programs.
I will now hand over to Kim to begin the presentation. Thanks Kim.
Kim Willcox
Thanks, Angela. Hello, and I especially want to acknowledge Steven and Katrina. Thank you very much, Steven, and I can see you're just in there, you’ve got a minute, I'll run through my presentation, but lovely to see you. I'm really thrilled to be in such company. I know your bios weren't necessarily read out just yet, but I’m seeing them, and they're impressive. So thank you very much for the opportunity.
Next slide, please, Angela.
So what I really wanted to do is provide an overview of Provider Connect Australia. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to have both practice managers and general practitioners present because the product is for all of you. Some of you will engage with it more than others.
I didn't want to assume too much knowledge. Actually, a lot of people already know quite a bit about Provider Connect Australia, but I thought we'd recap a little before getting to the question-and-answer session just in case people hadn't come across it.
I myself took responsibility for Provider Connect Australia on 1 February this year and in March we started some of our roll out, so I wasn't around for the pilot phase, which occurred late last year, but it was a fascinating project to be involved in, and I'm really looking forward to some of the feedback, both the bricks and the bouquets, later today.
So basically, the product has been in the making for some time, and no credit to me. Quite a few teams in the Agency have been building this, and it started from I guess what you can see on the screen there as the red tape challenge.
So we at the Agency came to appreciate what it's like for healthcare organisations who have so many, I guess business partners, and to be constantly trying to update them every time. For example, a new GP joins the practice or leaves the practice, or the practice moves more into multi discipline areas, we might have valid health providers getting involved, not to mention the constant challenge of keeping Medicare details up to date, things like that. So we understood that there were so many different processes, the Agency wanted to look into how we could actually streamline that. And this is the information we were given. Not just about the red tape challenge, but the impact it was having. We obviously appreciate the expertise of healthcare providers to provide healthcare, and the more of the admin burden we can ease, the better.
Next slide, please.
So that's why Provider Connect Australia comes in. It is provided by the Digital Health Agency for free. We do not require any fees to actually use PCA. We are using it to try and provide a tool that allows you to connect with all of your partners over time, and to make it much easier to do so, and in particular, I guess the word is streamlining. So in effect, we're offering it as a one stop shop. You put your information in, you keep it up to date in one place, and you push it out to the people that need to know.
Next slide, please.
This is a visual representation. So the tool itself is sitting in the middle, and to the left hand side we're referring to the healthcare provider organisations that we understand are what we call the publishers. So this is a publish and subscribe model, and we understand that primary care providers, allied health specialists and to some extent hospitals and jurisdictions are the ones that are most likely need to keep all of their information up to date, and putting it out to all of the people that might want to know. The tool sitting in the middle gives you an example of just some of the information that you can publish using Provider Connect Australia such as the name of the practice, the types of services that the practice is able to offer, the details of the practitioners and how to contact them.
The verification services is to indicate that it is a secure tool, that you must be authenticated, and you must verify who you are, so that the only people using this tool are genuine providers and business partners, and most of you would be familiar with using HPIOs and HPIs as part of that authentication. And we work closely with other institutions, such Ahpra and Services Australia to work out how that fits in as part of the overall healthcare Identifier Service. On the right hand side you can see the business partners that a lot of people have told us they want to be able to publish through. So these are the people that are subscribers that are going to sign up to use Provider Connect Australia in order to receive those regular updates in a consistent and meaningful way. Some of the critical ones amongst those are including the National Health Care Services Directory. But there are many others. Some people will engage more with private health insurers than others. You know, private and government clinical programs. There's a range of others. We've got secure messaging system providers, online appointment systems. I actually expect this is an area that will grow and grow and grow.
The important thing is that there is also an end outcome for consumers there. So in particular, that's why I call out the National Health Services Directory. I'd imagine that for a lot of people, Services Australia and managing the relationship in how important Medicare is to running a general practice is quite critical, but the benefit of the National Health Services Directory is the information that gets shared with them can then go on to be available to consumers who are increasingly looking for digital tools to help them choose their healthcare providers.
Next slide.
So I alluded to the fact before that a pilot of the PCA was conducted starting in November last year, and that was an invitation only approach because those people were selected in partnership with primary healthcare networks. So there's approximately 30 primary healthcare networks around Australia. They were each asked to recruit 20 sites to participate in the pilot, and they were stepped through the registration and use process for PCA. And along the way a number of surveys and feedback was collected to ensure that we could learn from that pilot process, and in particular some in-depth user surveys and thank you to the practice managers out there. They dominated the survey responses which was really useful for us to actually look at what we learnt from PCA during the pilot phase. And in essence, what I can share, not sure if we put this on the next slide so we’ll just go to the next slide. So we asked for a lot of people's time quite frankly, it was a 15 minute survey and a number of other opportunities to provide feedback to us, including the primary health care networks were of course able to share their experiences. And I guess a good summary is to say what we heard loud and clear was the product is a useful product. People did think it is going to help them streamline the way they publish their information about their organisation. However, it did take a reasonable amount of effort to get registered and to actually set up the organisation in Provider Connect Australia. So we heard that it is a bit of a pain burden up front.
I can share with you that as we start to roll it out more broadly, we have heard that as well. In fact, I have one person, I'll be quite honest, tell us recently that we're offering to bust red tape, but they actually felt like we gave them more red tape. I think that's a fair representation of the issues we know about with registering to use the product. But that overall, once people got past that initial burden, they did feel that it was going to be a lot more useful to them in the future. People told us it is saving them hours, because all they have to do is update one place where their information exists, and then push it out to their business partners rather than sending separate emails, having them bounce, deal with them again, follow up by phone etc., etc. So the overall summary we took away is yes, this is a product we have a bit of improvements t make on, we need to go through to make it an even better product. But it is one people want to use.
Next slide.
So this brings us to the point where we're now moving ahead with what we call the national rollout, so it still remains a product that we're offering for free. It is entirely optional. We do not compel or require people to use it. We offer it to you as something you may wish to use to support your healthcare organisation. We are structuring our roll out in 2 stages. The first stage, which is already underway, it commenced last month, is the Vaccine Clinic Finder Connect transition stage. If that doesn't mean anything to you, please do not be concerned. It simply means that you weren’t one of the vaccine providers that assisted during the first stage of the pandemic. And you therefore didn't use Vaccine Clinic Finder Connect. In effect, because the Agency had already been building Provider Connect Australia, during the pandemic we were asked by the Federal Department of Health what we could do to help, make life easier for approved providers offering vaccines, and our response was to take, I guess, a similar approach to PCA and quickly convert it into a tool. And that tool is Vaccine Clinic Finder. That tool will be decommissioned on the 30th June this year. Therefore, as a priority, we are offering the bigger, better, and more enduring product which is Provider Connect Australia. And our priority is supporting anyone who has been using VCFC. So that we can move them onto PCA before we take away VCFC. Again, I wish to be clear, they are under no obligation. they may wish to use PCA, they may not wish to. Most people tell us they do wish to. It's not an obligation, but for very good reason, they are currently our priority focus.
From July onwards, we plan to open up access to Provider Connect Australia far more broadly. So if you're a general practice not providing COVID vaccines, you'll have an opportunity as well pharmacies as well allied health specialists, and so on.
Next slide, please.
So there's a lot I really covered in a very, very quick overview. Of course, we do have feedback about the national rollout, which we launched about 3 weeks ago, focusing on vaccine clinic providers. I'm also really keen to have a chat with Steven and Katrina about the experiences involved, because this is going to be a great opportunity for me to get feedback as well. So, before we go into more broadly into the open questions, I just wonder if I could invite, perhaps for Steven. You may wish to introduce yourself. I'm sure you're well known. But I did read your bio and I think there's a few good points to bring out there if you allow me to say so, including the fact that I read somewhere that you're an authorised railway health provider, which I didn't even know existed you'll have to tell me about that one day, Steven. And I know Katrina was one of the earliest users. I think you're among the first to actually go through the registration process for PCA Katrina, but I’d like to ask Steven first, like, what are you hearing? What is the utility of a tool like this from the perspective of a general practice, both for my sake, but also for the broader audience. What can you share about that?
Dr Steven Kaye:
Yeah, thanks, Kim. I'm in the trial with PCA. So I agree with your communications that it's an excessive amount of red tape to get in. You have to go through PRODA and HPOS in order to get into the system. Once you're in, of course, then it's fine, but that's the access point, so I’m not quite sure about the reduction of red tape that's there, so that needs to be massaged and smoothed out a little bit I would expect, that's certainly the case.
I guess I've got a question for you, Kim. I'm going to flick it right back. Why is this not a, you know, when one of the questions came up in the chat talking about the difference between PCA and Healthdirect Service finder. Why is the PCA not the directory? Why is it not the umbrella directory to take all of the information, and actually be the source of truth, and be the directory? Or is it planning to be that in the future?
Kim Willcox:
No, it's a great question, and I can understand it. And I guess there's two answers to that. One is it certainly supports the directory, but it will do a lot more than that. So the health directory has a clear articulate function, has existed for many, many years before Provider Connect Australia came along and we definitely support it. So the information is published to the directory, and you no longer have to go to them directly, you can use PCA to publish to them. But PCA will do a lot more.
So, for example, there's a business partner who has signed up, who receives the updates that the general practice would send as a subscription. So they subscribe to PCA, and they get the update from that general practice. The reason PCA is different to the Health Directory in that sense is that provider can integrate it with their own software platform and then automate that update practice from their end. That's not something the Health Directory is in a position to be able to do. So we will work with them. I speak to the National Health Services Directory team at least once a week. We certainly are aware of their function, but it will always be aligned, but different. They do actually have a different function to carry out. They are funded by State and Territory, as well as Federal governments to exist.
We're not about to unpack all of the functions that they do. But the difference we offer is that a subscriber can integrate it within their own software platform. So I know for example, we've spoken to private health insurers, some of whom are very interested, and I won't name names, but one of the bigger private health insurers has already come back to us and said, look, we're interested, but we also do a lot around banking details. Are you going to put banking details of the general practices or allied health professionals or specialists in there? At that point it's super useful to us because of the integration possibility. At this stage we don't ask you to provide your banking details. We'd have to think very carefully about whether our tool should do that, but that's an example of where it differs from the Health Directory.
Dr Steven Kaye:
So just from a clinical point of view in general practice with, you know, speaking to lots of GPS and lots of practice managers. So when we connected to PCA there'll be a synchronization through our contacts list within our software. So whether it's Medical Director or Best Practice, or ZedMed. Or whatever. And that will soon be able to be synchronized seamlessly in the background, so that we get correct information to target clinicians when we're writing letters. Or however, we're using them. Is that right? We'll be able to hit a button to say, synchronize, or it'll be done in the background automatically?
Kim Willcox:
So PCA is the background tool. No one will see it. That's the other big function of this to call out about the National Health Services Directory. Their aim is to make information available for consumers. PCA says but you also want to publish you on that, so I can't answer exactly how Best Practice and Medical Director, etc., and ZedMed are integrating and synchronizing it. But that is the overall intent. It's a digital tool that key providers, such as the ones you've mentioned, will have opportunities to integrate it, and to make it as seamless as possible for both the publishers and the subscribers.
I think we've got a way to go. I also think, like a lot of digital tools, there’s a little bit of a chicken and an egg story. People believe in it when it's actually up and running, and they can see it for themselves. So you get some people saying I'll hold back from finding out about this service, and then I’ll see how it goes. Oh, actually, I've heard good things about it. And, for example, at the moment I think it's fair to say we've got a lot more publishers than subscribers. So we'll end up with this situation initially where I’m in there, it's so much easier for me to have a one-stop-shop for mainly information about our practice. For example, Dr. Kaye, the only accredited railway health provider in Australia - I'm making that up clearly - but I was so impressed with that.
But who are you publishing that, too? Because right now the private health insurers are telling us well that's really great. It does 80% of what I need. But there's this other 20% which is critical to me, such as banking details. I'm just holding back to see. So when I talk about chicken and egg, then I have a funny feeling. The next, you know, in a few months from now the conversation I’ll be having with you is not about registration. It's going to be the pain point of I'm in there, and I’m using it, and I’m pushing it out, but my receivers aren’t in there, and they're not receiving it this way yet.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Sounds like a lot of projects doesn't that general practice adopts, and we have no one to talk. Secure messaging is exactly like that, isn't it. We’ve just got nobody to talk to out there.
Kim Willcox:
Interesting that Telstra Health as a big secure messaging provider, they have signed up as a subscriber. The one I hear about the most is Medicare, and we work very closely with Services Australia but like any big government organisation, the wheels are slow to turn, it's definitely on their radar. They appreciate the difference. But yeah, I do want to hear about those registration pain points. I don't want to dismiss those. I want to understand them and know where the product improvements we're planning are going in the right direction. But I will fully predict that a conversation I’ll be having with you in the near future is, I’m in there, and I’m using it, where are other subscribers. and I think we'll be talking about how together we enrol them and we prove to them that it's a product worth using. So I’ll be very interested to hear perspectives on that down the track.
Dr Steven Kaye:
So one of the questions we've got is ‘when will the clinical software packages we integrated into the PCA’ I think it's the other way around - when will PCA be integrated into the clinical software – and ‘when will that actually happen from a timing point of view, to get that synchronisation to occur in the background?’
Kim Willcox:
Yeah, it's a great question. And thank you very much for raising it, because it's the kind of thing I’m sure many people are wondering. It is actually up to the likes of Medical Director, Best Practice, ZedMed, etc. to do that. But to reassure you, we have a developer portal where they can go in and access the solution architecture, the technical details. So every week we run seminars with people where we show them the solutions. We then send them the link to the developer portal, so they can play around with them. And again, I think it's a chicken and egg story, as it becomes clear that so many people are using it, and it's a product they want to see evolve in the right direction, I think we'll see more impetus for that to happen sooner rather than later. I think, if I have the opportunity and thank you again for this opportunity today, I think I need to come better prepared for that discussion about where some of our partners are up to with the integration journey. It's not something I have immediate visibility of.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Yeah, look, it's a very interesting journey, and this is absolutely the first step isn't it really to cobble all of these bits and pieces together to get the system to integrate and understand where it's going. So it's a very exciting period of time.
Those who are online who a part of the trial. I think I was a bit disappointed that there were no carrots for us to do the trial. It was just here spend lots of time, and do lots of work, but we're not going to give you anything for it. Thank you very much. I think that was a bit harsh. but certainly the end game is kind of increase integration across the network, you know, between all health practitioners and systems. So very good to do that. We might bring in Katrina to share her thoughts about it from a practice management point of view.
Kim Willcox:
Legendary status Katrina, I've been well informed [inaudible] so I’m expecting big things.
But I also think this is the one chance to really, you know tell the people directly involved in helping roll out this tool. I'd love the bricks and bouquets. How does it look from a practice manager's perspective?
Katrina Pyle:
Thank you for inviting me. I think I’m with the rest of them that there was some registration pain. And that was trying to use the terminology that was being used with the legal structure of how a business is. There is no always one box to fit, and trying to find where I fit to register was really painful. But once that was done, and I did it live with, I think there was 50 people watching me which is really daunting, I think I registered in less than 15 minutes once I knew which legal structure I ticked and then I added each doctor in less than 5 minutes. So it was easy to use. I like the fact that it verified some information. Once I was entering that provider number it gave me some of the information I needed to do.
What I was excited about, and yes, I would love it to integrate with all the clinical software, but being a practice manager and having new registrars every year, and not too long ago I used to have interns every 10 weeks. I would need to send a billion emails and faxes and filling forms with multiple public and private hospitals that one of their own forms filled in to make sure that all the doctors, so I’m looking forward to being able to enter it and to send it out to say the encrypted providers and public hospital and public and private hospital pathology, imaging the PHNs and saying this is my doctor, I'm sending nothing else. But I'm realistic that, in the meantime, I’m going to have to do double work. I'm going to have to do that and still enter. And hopefully they come on board, and I won't have to email S and N and tell them guess what I've got a new doctor and let's go ahead. I’m excited for integration, but I’m also excited to not send a mass email and mass forms every time a new doctor starts with us, and I feel sorry for the practices that have locums regularly, because that's what they would do. 15 plus forms and emails to fill in.
So that's what I’m looking for. But I’m realistic. It's going to take some time, and I’m going to be doing both for a little while.
Kim Willcox:
I think, Katrina, that's a great reminder for someone like me who's not actually using the product. I actually cannot. I'm not a healthcare provider. I don't meet the verification requirements. So it's a really good reminder. It's not uncommon experience in any transition phase to find us dealing with the old model and the new model at the same time. I think any digital system, I know I happen to live here in the ACT and the ACT government recently rolled out their digital health tool in their hospital system, and I’m sure there are many providers who would have said the same thing. I'm still using the charts, and I’m trying to log in to the system. So there is that transition phase, and we sometimes forget.
Because I’m all about you telling you how the tool can work for you, it's a really good reminder that we have both, and part of that will be this chicken and egg story that I keep talking about, that we need to try and wind up the subscribers to. If you want that one source of [inaudible] please sign up to PCA which is where you're going to get it from. So I do see both from the perspective of you setting up your own organisation in PCA as a tool that works for you. But also will that pain bear out even longer if you've got PCA good to go, you may not have as many locums as others, but you're trying to publish it, and your subscribers aren’t there to receive it. So then they're still ringing up and going well, I didn't get it. When are you going to fax it to me? I mean fax is a dirty word in my in my world. We wish we could ban all fax machines and move into the modern era, but the fact remains there is still, unless you're Monash Uni which I think did ban them, sorry, Monash Hospital, which I think have banned them, you know there are still providers out there that are going to want those updates from you, and you know that's a pain point. We can only offer a replacement.
We can't actually ban this. We can't compel people to use PCA. So I am going to be really keen increasingly. Once we get through the initial… right now our focus is supporting vaccine providers. It's not only winter season, eligibility for your Covid vaccines continues to shift a little, and people are trying to manage influenza and other things as well. So I unashamedly make them my focus before we transition fully away from Vaccine Clinic Finder Connect, but we do want to continue to drive improvements.
And if you could indulge me for one moment, I really appreciate the feedback about the registration. A little moment of raw honesty. That remains the case right now, but it is important to keep reinforcing that message to us, so I do appreciate your frank advice to us. The reason it remains. The issue is that we are mapping how to do product releases to improve it. And one in particular that's come to us. And you mentioned the excessive requirements with PRODA etc., without just missing your comment, which I actually really value, I want to tell you why I see it a little differently. We didn't go for another verification source. We're using the existing one, so I’m not saying it's not a challenge to keep tapping into health identifiers and PRODA and a number of other to do that verification. At the same time, I’m pleased we didn't create a standalone one just for PCA. So it must be frustrating, and I do apologise for that. But it's important that everyone believes that when you get an update from a healthcare provider it's a verified and genuine one, and that we don't you know we have trust built into the system.
There are some other elements of the red type we've heard about, and Katrina probably more to some of the things you've said, and Steven maybe this feels the same for you to. It's about the legal and business structure. And some of the reasoning behind that is because we're offering this product for free. But it does need to be a trusted, verified source of information. It can have an impact on decisions that are made to deliver healthcare and therefore we have to legally ask people to prove who they are, and it is a product being used as a business. So there's not distinct legislation behind this, but we are required to make certain legal requirements in order to be able to offer the product for free, and one of the ways of doing that is registering as a business to use it, and inviting by certain user rules so that it remains that genuine trusted product.
Now, we've already pivoted slightly. I'll be really honest, and I’ll call out something. If you haven't yet registered yet for Provider Connect Australia, you may not be eligible right now, because you may not be a vaccine clinic provider right now, but in future we will be opening it more broadly. We do know, and we do understand, that asking you to get a statement from ASIC comes with a fee. And not everyone wants to pay a fee, because here we are telling you this is a free product, but actually an enrolment or registration requirement is, you go away and get a statement from ASIC. And we have actually heard and understood that feedback. We won't not ask for it, however, we do have an alternative, and that is a statutory declaration. So we have tried to find alternatives for that, there are some longer term alternatives that we're trying to work with to alleviate some of the burden on the business register and I’ll bore you for 20 seconds with some of the complex arrangements we're looking at to make registration easier.
One of the things we're looking at is the Australian business number. So again. Yes, it must be horrible to get a HPIO and your PRODA account and bring all these things together, a pain in the neck to keep chasing those details. What we're trying to do, though, is utilise existing systems. So we've opened a conversation with the Australian Tax Office about the ABN. Tricky thing. The tax office has a public version of ABNs, and they also maintain a non-public version. Under their own rules, they will not release the non-public version to a commercial entity. By law the Australian Digital Health Agency is a corporate commonwealth entity. Therefore we fall under the commercial banner.
So we're just exploring is there a way we can source information that an organisation has already given in the form of their ABN to make this an easier tool to almost, I don't want to say pre-populate because that might not be what you actually see, but to make sure that we use existing verification structure. So you don't have to go around and fill in steps or something like that. But we've already hit a hurdle when it comes to the law, because I guess the Government does take all of that information seriously, so you can only access it if you have a legitimate, genuine reason to do so. So there are things we're exploring to try and make that registration process better. And what's happening at the moment is they are the complete focus of our next product releases. So we released an update in February of this year straight off the back of the pilot. The product team were incredibly responsive. That's why that feedback was so valuable. So I apologise to Steven. I had nothing to do with the pilot. I wasn't here and involved then and I'm sorry if you feel your time, because we all know that time is money, I think the value you would have got out of it is influencing it, and I’m really pleased to say that they did release a product improvement in February the next one is planned for the middle of the year, and it's pretty much entirely focused on easing some of that registration burden. So, picking up on the feedback we received, I hope, down the track though, there are future product improvements to come.
One of the, and Katrina, you may know and this goes back to the point about locums, one of the things I've already seen is just some of that, like absolutely crystal case feedback. You go in and you've registered. You've got through. You know the pain barrier that currently is registration and verifying yourself. And you're in there using the product, but apparently there's no copy and paste function. Again, I have to confess I’m not a user, I may not be because of the way I can't register. However, I understand that let's say you've got a doctor and you may have more than one practice in, you know. You might be a corporate entity and have three different sites, and you're working across two of them, people did give us really clear feedback. Wouldn't it be nice, it's great to talk about all their information, but then I just want to copy and paste it and apply it to our sister practice, for example. And I’m led to believe that that cannot happen at this point in time. So what I want to share with you is the sense that all of our next product releases are driven around easing the registration process and trying to improve that experience for customers.
The last thing we need is that you try and engage with the product, and it's all too hard so you walk away. But beyond that, we've also received feedback, and I think future releases, but I’m talking more than six months away will be getting to some of those other things that people told us about. So how do we actually improve the user experience once you're inside the product and those kind of things. So this is why these opportunities are so great.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Perhaps we'll give you a chance to have a rest for a moment to have a drink. Lots of words there, and Katrina, perhaps I can ask you what sort of support you got from your PHN? You're in Queensland, I think, from your PHN. You know the PHNs around the country, the 31 of them, from what I understand are supposed to be facilitating the support of this process, because there is a level of complexity there. So if you could perhaps describe the support that you got over that time.
Katrina Pyle:
Because I was early adopted they were mostly watching, but that was part of their training to see what the process was for someone early registering. So the PHN will be supporting. I believe Provider Connect will have videos and step by steps for when the mass population starts registering for that. But also, I believe our CDP and AIM will also be sort of supporting information going forward as well. But I had the PHN and the Digital Health Agency that were helping me get past that registration part. I found it a little bit easier once I was in. I just needed to get in first and saved.
Dr Steven Kaye:
And for the most part that's a that's a one-off registration. Isn't it. So once you've done it, it's done and then you can start, you know, bringing in and taking away various clinicians that are moving in and out of your practice, and therefore exposing their information to the rest of the country and the register.
Katrina Pyle:
So I registered in November, I believe, or maybe earlier. But I just logged in last week to refresh myself for today, and also, added my registrar who started, which is a reminder that if we're going to use this system, we have to make sure we update it regularly. Otherwise the data is not that good.
Dr Steven Kaye:
And that's actually a good reminder, a trigger as well is that you know as part of the registrar orientation process we need to log them into the PCA so that they then get seen as well, and every six months as the registrars turn over we need to delete the ones that have moved through and add the ones that are coming onto our systems which is terrific. So it's, you know. It's certainly a good product. You know it's very early days. One of the other questions, I'm not sure if Kim or Katrina you can answer, one of the questions is whether the PCA qualifies for an ePIP incentive, whether there's any incentives linked to utilisation of the PCA as a as part of that. So perhaps Kim or Katrina, you want to go for that one.
Katrina Pyle:
I have not heard anything yet. If there is, it's working in the background before I’m being told.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Well, that's not much of an answer. We don't like that answer. Kim, you can give us a better answer than that.
Kim Willcox:
Oh, really, not that you've set me up. Look I don't believe it is, many, many moons ago I worked on the ePIP a long, long time ago for anyone who can remember when it used to be called the IMIT. Not to my knowledge, and I think you know, look, it will have moved on a lot since I've worked on it. But really this is a product built off the back of feedback we got from healthcare organisations for healthcare organisations so that is a little different. It's trying to incentivise you to use things they want you to use. This was built entirely with your needs in mind, so I have had no conversations about it being part of the incentive. The incentive is, you use it if it works for you. We offer it for free. It's optional. It's not something that I see Government will choose is to incentivise, the incentive is that it's free.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Yep. And there's a couple of questions about Allied Health, you know, generally, optometry in particular, but other allied health providers. I would think that they need to digitise in order to utilise the service as a number one thing, and then they need to stop using their fax machine. That would be a really great step forward. So I guess the question is, who will help them to register and orientate and get those services happening in a digital format. There's you know, general practices is special, and you know, allied health is special as well, in a different way.
Kim Willcox:
So general practice and community pharmacies are currently neck and neck competing with each other to be amongst the first to use PCA and community pharmacies are cracking great guns as well, slightly different, because they are more likely to be corporatised, you know huge national providers so they might sign up one, and then list all their sub-organisations. And all of a sudden, you’ve got 400 sites in there, so the numbers are a bit skewed right. It looks like 400 community pharmacies versus however many GPs. But allied health, we plan our national launch, our first stage two from the middle of the year onwards. That's when we want to make sure we can open it up to allied health and specialists, etc., so absolutely welcome that, yes, some of them have a way to go to digitising. I actually had my optometry appointment just the other day, and was blown away by how digitised they were. So they even offered to provide my results directly to my ophthalmologist without me needing to take a copy on USB. So I was quite happy with that. But yes, absolutely looking forward to it.
The question about who's going to help with registration? It's actually self-registration. Why would I say that when we all just talked about how difficult it is? That's because we're in the process of improving it, and it already has improved. So right now focus on Vaccine Clinic Finder is we have a registration checklist to give people tips, so know what your organisational structure is. Know what your ABN is before you start the registration process. We have already had a number of organisations who get prompted with their registration checklist. At the moment they receive a phone call asking how they are going because we need to help the vaccine providers in particular, and they're basically already on it.
So we know that self-registration has improved significantly from when Katrina tried to engage with this tool. We also know we have a way to go, and we're working on that. So the process from July onwards will be self-registration. What you can't see right now is all of the information materials that we've made available because it's basically on an obscure website. That's because there are 10,000 VCF users that we're trying to transition between March and June. That's a lot, and they are our priority. We always plan to open it up more broadly from July, so that website will no longer be obscure at that point. All of the support materials will be available, and people will be able to register themselves.
Dr Steven Kaye:
We lost just that last little bit, Kim. I think you dropped out for a moment. So sorry about that everybody. One of the questions that I've got for you is - we've seen lots of products come and go. We've seen lots of projects come and go. They come for a few years, and then they disappear. You know, over the journey, whether it's, you know, in general practice divisions based, or Medicare locals, or now the PHNs and who knows which political windmill they'll get stuck with. So I guess I’m asking, what's the lifespan? The planned lifespan for the PCA. And if we all buy in and get to utilise it, it's going to need to be supported and funded. So does the Digital Health Agency have and the Government, of course, Medicare and the Government, have substantial commitment to the PCA. So that we put in this effort and we further digitise health across the country.
Kim Willcox:
Yeah, thanks for the question. There's a little bit of political elements in here which, at the end of any financial year, any good public servant will shy away from answering. However. Yes, is the answer, and this was a tool built off the back of healthcare organisations, asking the Agency for support, and we have delivered. If we now take away that tool, you can only imagine the pain that would be experienced. I also wouldn't have a job. So while the Agency is in the position now of waiting, like everybody else, to see what the May budget holds I can only share the plan I've written for how we're going to roll out the national launch from the middle of the year onwards and open it up to an even bigger audience. And again I come back to what I said earlier. I can't wait to be talking to the allied health sector in more detail, and I can't wait to be talking to you again about how we're going to enrol the subscribers. So I’m very much looking forward to a longer term journey.
Dr Steven Kaye:
So we can quite confidently say that the more people that buy in and put their details on, the more likely it is that this will actually continue and become the focus for identities of practitioners across the country.
Kim Willcox:
Yeah. Look, I can only point to other enduring examples. So we also built e-prescribing solutions in the middle of the pandemic, and they are now shifting to a more longer term future. Not only that, but we're driving medicine safety forward with real time prescription monitoring solutions. My health Record remains there in the background to the person who was accidentally not on you at the beginning. The Digital Health Agency is a lot more than that, these days.
But, yes, we are clearly committed to, while we might be dismantling some of the temporary tools developed for during the pandemic, PCA is the enduring solution going forward, and I’ll welcome your ongoing feedback to help us make that bigger and better.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Wonderful! That's fantastic, isn't it. And you're exactly right. I think the more people that use the more practices that use all of the services that the Digital Health Agency provides, the more likely it is that they'll be improved with feedback, and be more functional, more useful, and therefore self-propagate and be embedded within our system to help the health of the nation. That's what it's all about at the end of the day, it's patient outcomes and efficiencies are really the target. Isn't it.
Kim Willcox:
Can I reassure you too, a point that you won't find available publicly at the moment, but Health New South Wales is speaking to us about how they can use it. So we're looking at one. We've got Telstra Health signed up. I've got a number of smaller organisations signed up to subscribe, but also the New South Wales Government is looking at how they can use it to maintain [inaudible]. And by stuff that other jurisdictions are ringing up and asking if they should be looking at this too. So yeah, the more the merrier. Let's build it together.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Absolutely. How do you see things moving forward, Katrina? What's your view of the world from a PCA point of view?
Katrina Pyle:
Well, I’m hoping that it makes things a lot easier for us. But just to communicate with everybody every time there's a change in doctors. I can't wait to yeah, just update a doctor and that everybody knows booking. You know, online engines that you use for online bookings that everybody just knows that this happened, that would be great. I don't know how far into the future that's going to be, but that's what I’m looking forward to. That I just fill in one, you know, log into the portal, fill it in, and that all my pathology and imaging know that this doctor has now started, and this doctor has now left us and update what's needed so that we can just start immediately. Fingers crossed soon.
Dr Steven Kaye:
It sounds so terribly simple. I'm not quite sure why it hasn't been done in the past. It's at such a base level that it's, you know. I guess it's that the simplest projects are often the most complex to achieve.
Katrina Pyle:
And trying to get everybody on board.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Well, that's right. That's right. I think the number one thing is we've got to stop using the fax. Think that's a really good step and start using our digital communication means which is secure and effective and instantaneous. And just rule out the fax. So I think the Digital Health Agency should probably do a project on removing fax out of the systems as well.
Kim, you are exactly right, but Monash Health in Victoria has demanded that no referrals come any other way than digitally, which is tremendous. The problem is that they give the information returned by fax. So it's a unidirectional decision for their benefit. But in fact, they continue to fax information to practices and clinicians all over the place. So it's really silly.
Kim Willcox:
Yeah, imagine that, Steven. Can I just jump in on one question in particular, just to relay people I think we shouldn't underestimate. Well, this sounds simple, and it's easy to do. I just do want to come back to that genuine, verified trust and source of information. It's actually critical to build the longevity of this product that people do believe it's offering them the genuine and up to date information, and it's not being misused, and somebody's asked a question about who is engaged to assist with registration. If you are a vaccine clinic provider, and you actually used Vaccine Clinic Finder Connect, we have hired a call centre to reach out to you. So I've literally had this feedback. Sorry the Government offering me a free product, ringing me and offering to help me sign up for it? I don't believe it. It sounds too good to be true! So I just want to jump in on that one and say that in this case, it's not too good to be true, but you won't get that phone call if you're not Vaccine Clinic Finder Connect because you're not at risk of having the system decommissioned by the 30th June and losing the data you've already put in. So the benefit is, if you were using the VCFC and you'd already set your registered organisation up, you must legally register for PCA. They are totally different platforms. It is not a data migration process unless you have registered. So should you choose to use PCA and register in it then you will get support to migrate your information out of VCFC. That's where our focus is right now. But yes, it is true, a call centre may ring you and offer to help you with a free product on behalf of the government. You've seen it here first.
Katrina Pyle:
Will there be more information online for when people do start self-registering, or we start seeing more information from all the bodies and everything else, just that they just to help people if they aren't self-registering.
Kim Willcox:
Yes, and please let Miranda know, and she's on my list of people to speak to, yes. When it comes to the national launch we very much hope to rely on the goodwill of RACGP, AAPM, the Rural Doctors Association, and many, many others, and the allied health sector, peak bodies everywhere, and we will also not make our current support website obscure. We will release it and make it available publicly. The reason at the moment you can't find the link to register for PCA is because your ABN has to be pre-approved by us. We've got 10,000 people we have to prioritise. That's a lot in a couple of months. Once we open it up nationally, we're already trying to reach out to the Pharmacy Guild and others to make sure that we share the messaging and support materials to drive that national launch more broadly, to make it an easier and easier to find and access the information.
Dr Steven Kaye:
Wonderful. On that that happy note, one of looking forward to everybody being connected, I'd like to thank everybody who's tuned in today. We had about 150 odd people on our webinar today. Thank you to Kim and Katrina for joining us, and for your pearls of information. You can see on the screen the information, the access points for more information to further our practices from both the Australian Digital Health Agency, the AAPM the Australian Association of Practice Management and RACGP’s Practice Technology and Management team.
I'd like to thank you all for attending this afternoon.
And the contact details are all included in the resource pack that will be emailed to you following the webinar. So thank you all very much for attending, and I hope you have a very lovely day. Catch you then, bye now.

Other RACGP online events

Originally recorded:

4 April 2023

Provider Connect Australia (PCA) is a new online tool designed to reduce administrative burden on general practices and other healthcare providers. It gives practices a single place to enter and update information about the practice, such as opening hours, general practitioners and services offered and automatically shares those details with healthcare directory providers and other organisations.
PCA is operated by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) and is secure, reliable and entirely free-of-charge. The ADHA and the Department of Health and Aged Care are working together to provide early access to PCA to general practices currently registered with Vaccine Clinic Finder (VCF) Connect.
Delivered in collaboration with the ADHA and the Australian Association of Practice Management (AAPM), this webinar will help general practices learn more about PCA, its time-saving benefits, and the steps involved in making the transition to PCA.
(Note: practices not registered with VCF Connect will be able to register for PCA as part of the broader national rollout for all health care organisations from July 2023 onwards)

Learning outcomes

  1. Describe what Provider Connect Australia is and its potential benefits
  2. Explain how Provider Connect Australia creates unique identifiers for healthcare services, service delivery locations and practitioners’ service delivery roles and how these are linked across the healthcare system
  3. Register for Provider Connect Australia
  4. Update practice and practitioner details via Provider Connect Australia.

This event is part of Practice Essentials Webinar Series 2023. Events in this series are:


Dr Steven Kaye

Steven has been an RACGP Expert Committee member in eHealth / Practice Technology & Management since 2016. He has previously been the Deputy Chair of the Bayside Medicare Local and chair of the Bayside GP Network. Steven is a GP Registrar Supervisor for Eastern Victoria GP Training, an examiner for the RACGP fellowship and the Managing Partner of his General Practice in South East Melbourne. He has worked on many projects in an advisory role, including the ‘Shaping a Healthy Australia’ Working Group, My Health Record education program and the My Health Record External Assurance Committee.


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