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Budget: Wins for aged care and health ICT infrastructure

The My Aged Care platform will get a $3.1 million funding boost in 2017-18 to improve system performance, the government announced in last night’s budget.

It is the only aged care budget measure to attract new funding and is targeted at all My Aged Care users including over 33,000 aged care workers.

An evaluation of My Aged Care undertaken in 2016 highlighted inefficiencies in the system particularly for providers (read our story on that here).

That feedback continues to inform the accelerated design process while findings from the second evaluation are due mid-year (read that story here).

The improvements will support timely access for seniors to aged care information and services, including aged care assessments and referrals, as well as the redesigned National Advocacy Program and Community Visitors Scheme, according to Budget papers.

Pat Sparrow

Aged & Community Services Australia supported the funding for the much-needed enhancements to the platform.

“If My Aged Care is to be an effective entry point to the aged care system it must be adequately resourced to ensure older people and providers can easily find the information they need and it is easy to access services,” CEO Pat Sparrow said.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates welcomed the additional funds but said “this needs to be the first in a series of such investments in making My Aged Care work properly.”

The funding was also welcomed by Catholic Health Australia and Baptist Care Australia, whose executive director Marcia Balzer said it would “help address some of the current stumbling blocks in the policy reform agenda.”

UnitingCare Australia national director Claerwen Little called it a positive step in the government’s ongoing aged care reforms.

New aged care payments system

The government is also providing an additional $67.3 million in 2017–18 to continue the initiative announced in October 2016 to build a new digital payments platform for health and aged care.

At the time, aged care stakeholders welcomed the news to replace the current outdated system, which continues to cause major challenges for providers (read that story here).

Ian Yates

This measure will enable market engagement, procurement and design work to continue and includes funding for essential maintenance of current ICT systems, according to the budget papers.

The government’s call to market for how the new system should be designed closed on 4 April and the procurement phase for the new system is expected to commence mid-year.

Mr Yates said he welcomed confirmation of significant funding for the new Medicare and aged care payments system “that will in time enable consumers and families to have direct control over their home care packages.”

Funding the opt-out My Health Record

The government also announced an additional $68.7 million in funding in the budget to expand the My Health Record, including rolling out the opt-out model to all Australians.

The decision for a national rollout of My Health Record for every Australian, unless they choose not to have one, follows positive findings of an independent evaluation of the two opt-out trials held last year and unanimous support at COAG.

The government is spending a $374.2 million in total over the coming two financial years to continue and improve operations of the My Health Record and make it easier for health providers to register for the system.

It said the registration process for healthcare provider organisations would be online and fully automated by May 2018 and reduce the processing time from weeks to hours.

“This will replace the current time-consuming, paper-based registration processes and will cost less than supporting the existing system,” it said.

As at 7 May 2017, 173 residential aged care services are registered to use the My Health Record system and 4,803,022 individuals are registered.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon said the AMA was committed to working collaboratively with the government on the uptake of the My Health Record.

AAA’s coverage of Budget 2017:

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