The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated our lives over the last year but lots of work has continued behind the scenes by MIGA in the advocacy space.

Lots of COVID-19 advocacy…
Over recent months, much time has been spent in discussion to ensure the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines has been sensible, practical and fair for the profession.  We have been working closely with the Federal Government, regulators and key stakeholders on the issues of insurance, consent, follow-up and Medicare issues.  This work continues…

Emerging, complementary and unconventional medicine – a different approach?
Before the pandemic MIGA contributed to a Medical Board consultation on emerging, complementary and unconventional medicine.

We support clear guidance for doctors practising in these areas and were concerned about potential for confusion and uncertainty through wide ranging guidelines covering a diverse range of both conventional and non-conventional practices.  These would have covered both those providing such treatments and those caring for patients who were seeking these treatments elsewhere.  We argued for separate complementary and unconventional medicine guidelines first, with ‘emerging’ medicine (including off-label prescribing and evolving conventional practices) requiring a different approach.

Last month, the Medical Board announced it would not go ahead with broad guidelines as originally proposed.  Medical Board Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin, indicated “‘… the solution we had proposed did not match the problem we were trying to solve and the labels we used – complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments – were not helpful in defining the level of risk posed to patients.”   The Board identified a “persisting issue of patients being offered high-risk treatments that did not have an evidence base of safety and efficacy [including] vulnerable patients not being provided with the information they would need to give genuinely informed consent.”

We anticipate more work and consultation by the Board around these issues.

Privacy regulation – advocating for a healthcare specific regime
In late 2018, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into digital platforms made preliminary recommendations for extensive, economy-wide changes to privacy regulation.  This would impact most aspects of healthcare outside the public hospital system, including new obligations around collecting healthcare information, permitting certain patient requests to erase information and introducing new rights of legal action and penalties for privacy breaches.

We are concerned these will have an inappropriate and disproportionate impact on healthcare.  In submissions to the ACCC and Federal Treasury, MIGA argued the inquiry had not revealed any concerns about healthcare and the proposals were neither warranted nor appropriate for healthcare and some were more likely to impede rather than enhance healthcare.¹

The Federal Government opted against making the proposed changes (at least for now), embarking instead on a Privacy Act review.  MIGA’s recent contribution to this latest review advocated for a separate, tailored healthcare privacy regime, one which is harmonised with existing confidentiality obligations, supports necessary exchange of information amongst healthcare providers and which is clear, simpler and easily navigable by all involved.²

We look forward to further contributions to this review.

My Health Record – making it more useful for the profession and their patients
MIGA believes My Health Record has inherent limitations but can make certain important clinical information more easily available, offering potential to be more useful over time.

Over the second half of 2020, MIGA was involved in a review of My Health Record regulation.  We were pleased that the review supported a range of proposals we made to clarify how doctors and other health professionals can use My Health Record across a wide range of clinical situations.³ This covers use for children, verifying records, emergency access, data breach obligations, reports/certificates, deceased patients and defending damages claims.  We see this as an important part of removing barriers towards its wider use and utility.

We are hopeful the Federal Government will accept and implement these important proposals.

What’s ahead?
The coming months will involve much National Board/Ahpra related advocacy work.

The Commonwealth Senate has just announced a new inquiry into the National Boards/Ahpra.  This follows a similar inquiry four years ago which led to a range of important recommendations and subsequent improvements to the professional regulatory system, ones which MIGA advocated for strongly.  These covered vexatious complaints, more clinical input into complaints and different ways of managing them.  MIGA looks forward to contributing to this latest inquiry.

The National Boards and Ahpra are also consulting on revised regulatory principles, which follow directions from Australian Health Ministers to place greater emphasis on public protection, deterrence and public confidence in regulatory and disciplinary decisions.  MIGA has been working closely with the Medical Board/Ahpra over the past year on these issues, with a focus on ensuring processes are fair, rather than punitive.

There is also more in the pipeline on professional regulatory issues, including a wide range of changes to the regulatory framework and implementation of the Medical Board’s Professional Performance Framework. Stay tuned for updates on MIGA’s work.

Members and clients who want to discuss these and broader advocacy issues are welcome to contact us.

1 MIGA’s submissions are available at www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries-finalised/digital-platforms-inquiry-0/preliminary-report-submissions and consult.treasury.gov.au/structural-reform-division/digital-platforms-inquiry/consultation/published_select_respondent
2 MIGA’s submission is available at www.ag.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-01/miga.PDF
3 Final report of the Review of the My Health Records legislation (December 2020, released 11 February 2021) – www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/review-of-the-my-health-records-legislation

Prefer to read a PDF of the Bulletin? Download it here

We'd love to hear your feedback, comments and ideas

SUBMIT FEEDBACK