It looks like patient care and quality improvement have taken a backseat in the new Practice Incentive Program (PIP QI).
To be eligible to receive payments under the revamped quality improvement program, practice owners need to show Primary Health Networks (PHNs) that they are recording information such as smoking status or influenza immunisations, and hand over de-identified patient data to their local PHN.
It is important that practices record this kind of information but the requirements are set at a rookie-level – a bit like learning how to write, no, how to hold a pencil.
Not surprisingly, the new program is regarded by many practice owners and managers as ‘easy money’. I don’t blame them as the Medicare freeze has affected us all – but the Federal Department of Health is fully aware it is dangling a carrot in front of a profession in dire need of adequate funding.
It is unlikely that in its current form, PIP QI will improve the quality of patient care. The profession rightly has second thoughts: Is this the beginning of performance management? Is this part of the department’s general practice data extraction plan?
What’s next? As there is no transparent, long-term vision here, your guess is as good as mine. The department is playing its cards close to its chest and appears to be effectively applying salami-slice tactics.
Professional organisations should have been given more responsibility to execute an agreed quality improvement strategy, acceptable to all stakeholders, including custodianship of patient information and access to raw data.
This was however clearly not on the department’s agenda and professional bodies were not successful in reaching agreement on a profession-led solution (general practice needs a shared vision). As a result, the focus appears to have been on data extraction.
After having been postponed twice, the practice incentive program has now been launched, even though several best-practice data governance principles have not yet been met.
For example, practices have been given little insight into what patient data is exactly being extracted from their databases and what happens with it afterward.
Red flags about the scheme have been raised at grassroots level. When going live last week, there were, and still are, many unanswered questions.
The practice incentive program should be about improving patient care in an acceptable, sensible and meaningful way. I’m concerned the scheme will instead be remembered as a government data grab.