A significant part of Public Pathology Australia’s activities is keeping members and stakeholders informed of the latest developments that affect the provision and use of public pathology services. Public Pathology Australia canvasses members’ views as part of our policy and submission development activities.

Special interest areas that guide Public Pathology’s activities include:

  • advocating the important role and value of public pathology as an essential clinical knowledge service;
  • ensuring a fair and equitable financing framework for public pathology;
  • encouraging fair competition between pathology providers;
  • promoting safe and quality pathology laboratory services and practices;
  • supporting quality use of pathology by requesters and consumers; and
  • ensuring that Australia has an adequate and well trained pathology workforce.

News Archive

 

Public Pathology Australia issues a monthly newsletter. People working in Public Pathology Australia member organisations can subscribe to the newsletter. If you would like to read previous newsletters, please feel free to contact Public Pathology Australia’s Secretariat here.

To access the members only area and current newsletter, please click here.

Recent Developments

Approved Collection Centres

The Department of Health recently conducted a consultation process regarding Approved Pathology Collection Centre (ACC) arrangements. Consultation canvassed a broad range of issues relating to the regulatory framework underpinning ACCs, including regulation and improved transparency and compliance.

The Minister has determined that the current regulatory framework as it relates to prohibited practices and market rent is appropriate and is consistent with broader government competition principles.

The Minister and government are concerned to ensure that the requirements around the relationship between requestors and providers of pathology services are clear, well understood and administered effectively. The Minister has asked the Department to continue to work with stakeholders such as Public Pathology Australia on improving transparency and strengthening compliance under the existing regulatory framework. There are five main areas for examination and consultation:

  1. The Health Insurance (Eligible Collection Centre) Approval Principles 2010
  2. The Health Insurance (Permitted benefits – pathology services) Determination 2008
  3. The Pathology Undertakings
  4. ACC approvals process with a view to reducing regulatory burden for providers, and
  5. Improving transparency and awareness of legislative requirements with requestors and providers

From 2015, Medicare compliance is now the responsibility of the Department of Health. Compliance with the prohibited practices provisions for pathology will be included in the Department’s 2016-17 compliance work plan.

Click to search for or download a list of Approved Collection Centres.

Benchmarking

The Public Pathology Australia (PPA) national Benchmarking Program is open to all Public Pathology Australia members. Benchmarks are useful tools to guide managers as to where further analysis would add value. Benchmarks:

  • demonstrate value for money;
  • identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential for growth;
  • identify areas for making cost savings and efficiency improvements;
  • inform business and strategy planning processes; and
  • stimulate discussion on best practice and collaboration on initiatives which help deliver service improvement.

The PPA Benchmarking Program builds on a benchmarking pilot undertaken in 2015 with the public pathology services in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. Participants in the pilot believed that having more control over the methodology supported by a locally based analyst would improve the quality of the benchmarking program. The PPA Benchmarking Program aims to compare activity in three areas: Anatomical Pathology, Microbiology and Core Laboratory. The intention is to benchmark these areas before broadening the benchmarking program in future years.

The output from the PPA Benchmarking Program is a data analysis tool that allows participants to compare peer laboratories at the national level based on agreed upon key performance indicators (KPIs) and peer groups.  Comparisons can also be made within a pathology service and also amongst all pathology services as a whole. Measured benchmarks include weighted activity to reflect complexity, laboratory composition and costs for select areas.  This allows participants to have a better understanding about what is happening in similar laboratories.

For more information about the program or to request a copy of the methodology, contact PPA Data Analyst Jonathan Handel at data@publicpathology.org.au.

Cervical Screening

The Australian Government has accepted the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) recommendation to change from two yearly pap smears to five-yearly cervical screening using a primary human papillomavirus (HPV) test with partial HPV genotyping and reflex liquid-based cytology (LBC) triage. The new program will be available for HPV vaccinated and unvaccinated women 25 to 69 years of age, with exit testing of women 70 to 74 years of age. The new program will commence on 1 May 2017 when the HPV screening test will become available on the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

The MSAC recommendations follow evidence about the optimal screening age range and interval, the availability of the HPV vaccine and developments in new technologies for the early detection of cervical cancer.

Costing and transition arrangements are currently being considered by the Federal Department of Health. The Department has funded a Pathology Workforce Project, managed by Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA), and involving Public Pathology Australia. As part of the Project, updates about the Renewal of the National Cervical Screening Program as well as gynaecological LBC training resources and career transition support resources can be found here. There will also be a new National Cancer Screening Register to support the program.

Click for further information.

eHealth

eHealth is the electronic management of health information to deliver safer, more efficient, better quality healthcare. Click to view the Australian Government’s initiatives in eHealth such as the eHealth record (formerly the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record), telehealth and the healthcare identifiers service.

While pathology reports may be included in discharge summaries for hospital inpatients and discharge summaries are uploaded to the government’s eHealth record system, community requested pathology is not yet included in the eHealth record. The Department of Health has worked with the pathology sector on a draft model for uploading pathology onto the eHealth record, which is available here.

Federal Funding Changes

MBS Item Changes

The Department of Human Services (Medicare) has responsibility for communication of any scheduled updates to the MBS in May and November each year. The Department of Health has responsibility for communicating pathologist determinable changes outside of these scheduled updates. The Department of Health issues these notifications to Public Pathology Australia who then forwards to members.

The Federal Government recently announced an intention to remove the Bulk Billing Incentive on 1 July 2015. This change needs to be passed by the Senate before it takes effect. Click for more. Click for media release.

Federal Budget

In the 2014-15 Federal budget, the Commonwealth Government announced several significant departures from the terms of the NHRA and other key NPAs. In particular, the Commonwealth announced it would end efficient growth funding based on activity from 2017-18 and would instead calculate public hospital growth funding using a formula based on changes in population and inflation rates. The implementation of these budget measures as well as the Federalism white paper are likely to influence the future of Commonwealth health funding.

Pathology Funding Agreement

Pathology outlays under the Medicare Benefits Schedule had been governed by a Pathology Funding Agreement over the last decade. However, there is currently no Pathology Funding Agreement between the Australian government and the pathology sector. Click for the previous Pathology Funding Agreement.

Medicare Benefits Schedule Review

On 22 April 2015, the Minister of Health, Aged Care and Sport Sussan Ley announced a review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). The aim is to align all items on the MBS with contemporary clinical evidence and practice and improve health outcomes for patients. Public Pathology Australia and clinicians employed by Public Pathology Australia members are involved in the Review. Click for more on the Review. Click for our submission on the MBS Review.

Pathology Request Forms

Patients are not restricted to use the pathology provider branded on pathology request forms except where a requester to requires a patient to utilise a particular Approved Pathology Practitioner (APP) if there are clinical grounds. Mandatory patient advice statements must be included on pathology request forms.

Click for more on pathology legislation and regulations.