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Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Page: 12779

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:39 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Health Insurance Amendment (Diagnostic Imaging Accreditation) Bill 2009 will broaden the scope of the Diagnostic Imaging Accreditation Scheme (the scheme).

When stage 1 of the scheme was introduced in 2008, the accreditation arrangements only covered practices providing radiology services. The scheme did not cover non-radiology services, such as cardiac ultrasound, angiography, obstetric and gynaecological ultrasound or nuclear medicine imaging services, which account for around 16 per cent of the total number of Medicare funded diagnostic imaging services performed annually.

From 1 July next year, with the commencement of stage 2 of the scheme, the scope of the scheme will be broadened to cover all diagnostic imaging services (radiology and non-radiology) in the Health Insurance (Diagnostic Imaging Services Table) Regulations 2009. Any practices that are intending to render diagnostic imaging services for the purpose of Medicare benefits will need to be accredited under stage 2 of the scheme.

Accreditation is a well-recognised tool for promoting, reviewing and improving systems of health care and for fostering continuous quality improvement. Patients who attend an accredited diagnostic imaging practice can be confident that defined standards of care guide the delivery of those services.

The impetus for broadening the scope of stage 2 of the scheme and providing arrangements to transition non-radiology practices into stage 2 of the scheme is not a reflection on the quality of services as they are currently being provided but a focus on providing a consistent standard of diagnostic imaging services regardless of where or how they are provided.

Diagnostic imaging services are provided, and are being increasingly provided, by a diverse range of practitioner groups, including specialist radiologists, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, general practitioners, obstetricians, gynaecologists, nuclear medicine physicians and sports physicians. These services are provided in a range of practice settings, such as hospitals, single practitioner practices and multisite corporate practices. They take place in a variety of clinical contexts such as in conjunction with surgical procedures or as part of routine or emergency investigations to exclude or confirm injury or disease. Given this diversity, it is important to ensure that all the elements involved in the delivery of diagnostic imaging services are working together effectively.

Through the implementation of the stage 2 scheme, the government and the community can be assured that the 19.5 million or so diagnostic imaging services that are supported by Medicare annually are being provided by organisations that are able to meet specified standards and that the over $2.2 billion taxpayer funded investment in those services is being used effectively. Broadening the scope of the accreditation scheme to cover all diagnostic imaging services will ensure consistency and uniformity across the whole diagnostic imaging sector.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Health Insurance Amendment (Diagnostic Imaging Accreditation) Act 2007 to provide transitional arrangements so that practices delivering non-radiology services, or a combination of non-radiology and radiology services that are not accredited under the scheme, will be able to enter into the next stage of the scheme by registering for ‘deemed accreditation’ from 1 April next year until 30 June with an approved accreditor.

Practices in operation before 1 July 2010 providing both non-radiology services and radiology services and who have been accredited for radiology services under stage 1 of the scheme will not be required to register for ‘deemed accreditation’ as they will be automatically accredited until 30 June 2012.

Registering for ‘deemed accreditation’ will require approximately 1,400 practices that are currently providing non-radiology services, or a combination of non-radiology and radiology services not accredited under the scheme, to lodge a form with an approved accreditor. This will be a relatively simple process. The proprietor or responsible person will need to complete a form nominating the site to which ‘deemed accreditation’ will apply by specifying the location specific practice number and the name and contact details of the proprietor.

Once the approved accreditor receives the registration form with an application fee (if any) by 30 June 2010, the practice will be deemed to be accredited for the purpose of the stage 2 scheme and will have 12 months to obtain accreditation before 1 July 2011.

Diagnostic imaging services are a vital tool in the detection, measurement, treatment and management of clinical conditions. Patients should be confident that the standard of diagnostic imaging services is regularly reviewed. It is not unreasonable for them to expect a standard level of service regardless of how and where a Medicare eligible diagnostic imaging service is provided.

The Department of Health and Ageing has consulted comprehensively with members of the diagnostic imaging profession and industry. Feedback from these organisations suggests that the proposal to include non-radiology practices in the stage 2 scheme from 1 July 2010 is supported.

The department has also written to, and met with, members of the professional bodies representing the providers of non-radiology services. These groups include the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand; and the Australian and New Zealand Association of Physicians in Nuclear Medicine.

The department released an information paper to around 30 professional and industry organisations, representing providers of both radiology and non-radiology services, in February 2009. This paper outlined the proposals for transitioning providers of non-radiology services into the stage 2 scheme by 1 July next year.

The arrangements for practices providing non-radiology services are intended to enable their incremental participation and to keep the burden of compliance to a minimum.

The new entrants to the stage 2 scheme will be introduced to accreditation in much the same way as practices providing radiology services were introduced to accreditation when the stage 1 scheme commenced on 1 July 2008. The stage 1 scheme arrangements for practices providing radiology services have been well received, with around 2,700 practices currently participating. The transitional arrangements in this bill for providers of non-radiology services will replicate those successful arrangements for the stage 1 scheme and build on the already established accreditation framework.

Introducing the accreditation requirements incrementally will ensure that practices providing non-radiology services will have ample time to prepare for and comply with the accreditation requirements and that access to Medicare benefits will be less likely to be interrupted from 1 July 2010, when the stage 2 scheme commences.

Accreditation provides a mechanism by which the government can be assured that services funded under Medicare are being provided only by organisations that are performing against an endorsed set of standards. Furthermore, patients expect and should be confident that their health care is provided within a framework for continuous improvement, where safety and quality is paramount. This bill will deliver on those objectives and I commend it to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Mirabella) adjourned.