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Health Bulletin 22 August 2019

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

Streamlining processes for medicinal cannabis licences

AMA: Warning over health impacts of climate

New Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights released

Pharmacies across Australia are to become more digitalised

Australian Medical Association assesses My Health Record’s success so far

Draft revised professional capabilities for Chinese medicine practitioners

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Streamlining processes for medicinal cannabis licences

The Federal Government has recently announced changes to the regulation and promotion of medicinal cannabis in an effort to assist those living with chronic or terminal illnesses. The changes are expected also to boost the medicinal cannabis industry through the removal of red tape to obtaining licenses to cultivate, produce or manufacture medicinal cannabis.

The Department and Health and Department of Industry are collaborating to prioritise major projects in the medicinal cannabis industry, in particular those in rural and regional areas from 1 September 2019. Major projects are those which are valued at over $50 million.

Since it has been legalised, more than 10,000 prescriptions for medicinal cannabis have been written in Australia, for over 7,000 patients who are authorised to access it. Doctors are able to apply for a license to treat patients with cannabis products under the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) Special Access Scheme Category, or via an Authorised Provider.

In Victoria, registered medical practitioners are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for any patient with any condition if it is clinically appropriate, and the practitioner has the required Commonwealth and/or state approvals.

The majority of medicinal cannabis products in Australia are imported from overseas, and the new changes from 1 September will increase the availability of locally cultivated and manufactured products. Further changes to create a single licence model for cultivation, manufacture and research should increase the quality of products as well.

You can read more about how to access the TGA’s Special Access Scheme here.


AMA: Warning over health impacts of climate change

Safe drinking water, clean air, sufficient food and secure shelter are four health determinants that the World Health Organisation has previously identified as being seriously threatened by human activities that affect the global climate. Global Health Alliance Australia has recently contributed to this dialogue by issuing a nine-point plan to the Federal Government aimed at mitigating the health effects of climate change.

In its report From Townsville to Tuvalu, the Alliance recommends primary prevention initiatives and emphasises the economic burden of failing to address the costs of illness, disease, work absenteeism, and food and water contamination that inevitably flow from the effects of climate change.

The report focuses on adverse health effects identifiable in both Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and points to the exacerbation of existing inequities occurring as a result of rising temperatures, increasing CO2 levels, rising sea levels and extreme weather.

The nine-point plan includes:

  • Public recognition of the health impacts of climate change;
  • State and Local Government Area-based public health strategies that support direct action in Australia;
  • Increased financial investment aimed at developing effective health adaptations and low/zero-emissions initiatives; and
  • Supported, proven solutions that address the impact of climate change on health.

The Australian Medical Association, too, has previously weighed in. In its submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications Inquiry, the AMA made particular note of there being a limit to the extent to which humans can adapt to rising temperatures.

For further information on the Alliance’s report and for a full list of its recommendations, click here.


New Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights released

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (Commission) has launched a revised Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights (Charter). The Charter elaborates on seven fundamental rights in relation to health care: access, safety, respect, partnership, information, privacy and giving feedback.

According to Commission Chair Professor Villis Marshall AC, an update to the Charter was required to ensure the healthcare rights in the Charter match community expectations. In particular, he noted the updated Charter explains privacy in practice, expands on informed consent and open disclosure and reflects an increasing focus on the medical profession partnering with consumers.

While the Charter’s main goal is to assist the community in engaging in their health care decisions and having legitimate expectations about health care, the Charter also assists healthcare professionals. The Charter can be used by healthcare professionals to discuss with patients their rights when using the healthcare system. The Commission has also developed other resources to support healthcare providers when discussing patient rights.

Read the Commission’s media release here.

Access the Charter and supporting resources here.


Pharmacies across Australia are to become more digitalised

The latest issue of Pharmacy Growth, Research, Innovation and Training magazine explores the array of care services that pharmacies provide and their importance within transitional care in hospitals. Pharmacies in hospitals provide crucial care for patients as they move throughout the hospital, particularly when they are discharged and require ongoing medication and services.

Furthermore, the magazine discusses the need for improved pathways between admission into hospital and discharge, to ensure that they are safe and that the correct medicine is prescribed throughout.

These are not the only pharmacies currently under scrutiny, due to a recent digital health report from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, all pharmacies, regardless of location are set to undergo extensive reform.

Within the next five years pharmacies across Australia will need to undertake digital transformation to ensure there is better and more efficient care as well as improved accountability.

The shift towards digital practices will ensure real time prescription monitoring, electronic prescriptions and allow for pharmacists input into the country’s My Health Record.

Amongst many changes that will need to be made prior to the 2023 target of digitalising pharmacy practices, the health workforce will need to be equipped with the relevant tools and skills to ensure a data driven practice is successful.

This introduction will fill the gaps of this important healthcare service and will ensure that Pharmacists have the correct information in front of them to make safe healthcare decision.

The change hopes to see pharmacies, regardless of the practice having access to information that safeguards against harm to patients and ensures safe practice.

To read the winter issue of Pharmacy Growth, Research, Innovation and Training magazine click here and to read the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia report click here.


Australian Medical Association assesses My Health Record’s success so far

In a question and answer session at the National Press Club on 24 July 2019, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Dr Tony Bartone, advised that 90.7% of Australians have a My Health Record… “But that’s only part of the conversation because that record doesn’t mean anything if there’s nothing in it.”

Dr Bartone stated, now that the overwhelming majority of Australians have a My Health Record, the target then becomes educating and convincing all the cogs in the medical industry that there is utility in using the My Health Record as part of their daily work.

In an interview with Healthcare IT News, AMA South Australian President, Dr Chris May, identified three particular target areas where the My Health Record needed to develop – specialist, allied health and aged care. He noted aged care was a critical target. However, in all three cases, the utility was defeated by incompatible or low use clinical software.

Accordingly, he emphasised not only the importance of all cogs in the health industry being confident with the system but seeing the benefit of connecting to it.

Now that the privacy and security concerns have abated, both Presidents anticipate that Australians’ health literacy will mature with the increased use of the My Health Record by themselves and the medical industry.

To read the question and answer session, click here.


Draft revised professional capabilities for Chinese medicine practitioners

The Chinese Medicine Accreditation Committee (Accreditation Committee) is undertaking public consultation on its draft revised professional capabilities for Chinese medicine practitioners, as part of its project to develop revised accreditation standards.

The resultant Draft revised professional capabilities for Chinese medicine practitioners (draft revised professional capabilities) will form part of the revised accreditation standards.

The draft revised professional capabilities will apply to education providers and their programs to assure those programs provide graduates with the knowledge, skills and professional attributes needed to safely and competently practise Chinese medicine in Australia.

The Accreditation Committee is consulting on its draft revised professional capabilities, and invites feedback from education providers, practitioners, other stakeholders and the community.

The closing date for feedback is 9 September 2019.

Read the consultation paper here, and the draft revised professional capabilities here.

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