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By Rhiannon Riches
Communications Manager


Measures to update Medicare card security currently being implemented will affect optometrists, with further updates expected in the near future.

The Federal Government is rolling out a series of changes to Medicare card security in response to the Independent Review of Health Providers’ Access to Medicare Card Numbers report.

Optometry Australia representatives last week met with the Department of Human Services to learn further details regarding the roll out of changes being implemented as part of the government’s response to the independent review.

Optometry Australia’s Canberra-based General Manager, Policy, Skye Cappuccio, attended the meeting.

‘The government agreed to all 14 recommendations made through the review and is already in the process of implementing many of these. Some are of key interest to optometrists, and many relate to the Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) system,’ she said.

‘Verbal consent will be required from patients before health professionals can access their Medicare numbers through HPOS or by telephone. This is not a new policy but will be given greater emphasis in communications to health professionals in the near future.’

Ms Cappuccio said nomination of HPOS delegates will need to be renewed every 12 months, and practitioners and delegates will be reminded to do so. She said this is expected to be implemented later this year.

‘HPOS authentication will move from Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to Provider Digital Access (PRODA), and PKIs will be phased out. This change will happen in stages and is expected to be completed by December 2020.

‘Inactive HPOS accounts will be suspended after six months following a warning after three months of inactivity. This will be introduced later this year,’ she said.

Ms Cappuccio said updated terms and conditions for HPOS, PKI and PRODA that provide greater clarity around health professional’s responsibilities with regard to Medicare information will be released shortly.

‘There is a medium-term approach to phase out telephone channels, with exceptions expected for those working in areas with limited internet connectivity, and to use the more secure HPOS as the primary channel for health professionals to access or confirm patients’ Medicare card numbers.’

‘Enhanced verification on the provider enquiry telephone line for providers seeking a patient’s Medicare card number is already being implemented. Optometrists with concerns regarding providing their verification details in front of patients are encouraged to use the HPOS system instead,’ Ms Cappuccio said.

The Department of Human Services have agreed to update Optometry Australia before the next changes are introduced.

The following six recommendations will be implemented by 30 December 2018 (source: Allied Health Professions Australia):

Recommendation 4

It is recommended that health professionals should be required to seek the consent of their patients before accessing their Medicare numbers through HPOS or by telephone.
Full implementation of a consent message and check box on the Find a Patient screens will be introduced by the end of the year. A message regarding consent requirements has been placed on the provider enquiry line.

Recommendation 7

It is recommended that delegations within HPOS should require renewal every 12 months, with a warning to providers and their delegates three months before the delegation expires.
Currently in design phase to develop a solution.

Recommendation 8

It is recommended that batch requests for Medicare card numbers through HPOS should be more tightly controlled (50 card numbers per batch request, and only one batch request per day), unless healthcare providers apply in writing to the Chief Executive Medicare, demonstrating a clear business need for a higher limit.
An ICT solution has been confirmed, and the solution is currently in development.

Recommendation 10

It is recommended that HPOS accounts that have been inactive for a period of six months should be suspended, following a warning to users after three months of inactivity.
Currently in design phase to develop a solution.

Recommendation 11

It is recommended that the process of opening and reactivating a HPOS account should be administratively straightforward.
Currently in design phase to develop a solution.

Recommendation 12

It is recommended that the Terms and Conditions for HPOS, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and Provider Digital Access (PRODA) should be simplified and presented to users in a form that ensures that they fully appreciate the seriousness of their obligations.
To date, the PRODA and HPOS terms and conditions have been updated. The department is still working through updates to the PKI terms and conditions prior to the end of the year.


Related article: Review recommends greater security for accessing patients’ Medicare numbers


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