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Thursday, 29 March 2007
Page: 1

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:04 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Health Insurance Amendment (Diagnostic Imaging Accreditation) Bill 2007 will make a number of amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973 to establish a framework for the introduction of an accreditation scheme for practices providing diagnostic imaging services covered by the Radiology Quality and Outlays Memorandum of Understanding. The radiology MoU is one of four collaborative agreements the government has with the diagnostic imaging industry and profession to manage Medicare funded imaging services.

The radiology MoU covers the majority of diagnostic imaging services, with the exception of cardiac imaging, nuclear medicine imaging and obstetric and gynaecological ultrasound. It accounts for around 80 percent of the diagnostic services covered by Medicare.

In 2005-06 approximately 12.6 million services were claimed under the radiology MoU, attracting in the order of $1.2 billion in Medicare benefits. These services were rendered from around 3,100 practice sites. The radiology MoU represents 12 per cent of total Medicare expenditure.

The introduction of an accreditation scheme is one of the key initiatives of the radiology MoU to support the high-quality delivery of services under Medicare.

Accreditation is a process of externally reviewing an organisation’s performance against a defined set of standards. Accreditation is generally recognised as a means of assisting the health care industry to review and improve systems that support the delivery of safe and high-quality health care. The accreditation process provides:

  • a means of ensuring that minimum standards of practice operation are met
  • a benchmark for maintaining that competence; and
  • feedback to enhance overall quality in a professional discipline over time.

Accreditation is based on standards and processes devised and developed by, or in association with, health care professionals themselves.

Under the new accreditation scheme, all practices providing services covered by the radiology MoU will need to be accredited in order for Medicare benefits to be payable for those services.

Accreditation will ensure that all sites conform to a set of uniform standards when rendering these services.

For patients, accreditation will provide:

  • assurance that radiology services meet or exceed minimum industry standards;
  • assurance that the same level of service quality is provided irrespective of where or by whom the radiology service is rendered; and
  • confidence in the health care system because appropriate processes are in place to protect their privacy, the handling of complaints and physical safety.

For practices, accreditation will provide:

  • confidence that their practice has systems to support the delivery of high quality radiology services;
  • assurance that legislative and technical requirements are met or exceeded;
  • assurance that staff are technically competent and confident to provide quality radiology services;
  • economic benefits through the implementation of robust, streamlined and efficient administrative processes;
  • savings from reduced outlays for less than optimal services redistributed to the providers of high quality services; and
  • potential savings in medical indemnity insurance.

Accreditation will also provide a mechanism by which the government can be assured that services supported by Medicare are being provided only by organisations that are performing against an endorsed set of standards

The radiology accreditation scheme will complement a number of health care accreditation schemes already operating in Australia, many of which are also linked to financial incentives or government funding.

The bill will create a framework for the introduction of the radiology accreditation scheme. However, it has been designed to allow for the introduction of accreditation schemes for other diagnostic imaging services without further amendments to the act should parliament support extending accreditation to those services in the future.

The accreditation regime and the accreditation standards and requirements are being developed by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists in close consultation with the diagnostic imaging industry expected to implement them. I am happy with the progress being made. The government is giving these parties every assistance and cooperation in that task, which is intended to have a working accreditation scheme in place by 1 July next year. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Edwards) adjourned.