ASA's submission to the MyHealth record consultation
ASA has contributed a submission on the proposed reforms to the MyHealth record. The Australian Government has announced it intends to require health practitioners to share diagnostic imaging and pathology information ‘by default’ with the MyHealth Record. Consumers will also have access to information uploaded to their MyHealth record in real time, rather than waiting seven days.
As outlined in our submission, the proposed changes to the MyHealth system could improve patient outcomes, empower consumers, and enhance the overall efficiency of Australia’s health system. At the same time, medical ultrasound plays an essential role in our health system and the digital health reforms must take a balanced approach that minimises the compliance burden on the sector.
Our submission includes recommendations to clarify roles and responsibilities for diagnostic imaging information sharing, support for education and training, minimise interoperability issues, and involving key stakeholders such as our organisation in the development of eRequesting standards.
AHPRA criminal history standard review
The ASA has contributed to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) consultation on the Criminal history registration standard (the Standard). Our submission sets out aspects of the Standard that could be amended to provide stronger protections for patients, while supporting the rights of health practitioners to natural justice and privacy of their personal information.
Of course, the Standard applies only to the 25% of sonographers who are dual-qualified as radiographers. Our submission advises Ahpra that patients of the 75% of sonographers who are not dual qualified as radiographers do not benefit from the Standard’s protections.
You can read our full submission here.
The ASA has been gathering critical data on the workforce situation in both Australia and New Zealand, including information on graduate numbers, clinical placements, retiring sonographers, and the dropout rate of students due to a lack of clinical placements. This data is used by the ASA to inform key stakeholders about the state of the sonographer workforce in both countries.
Building a sustainable sonographer workforce in Australia
In March 2023, the ASA hosted an industry Roundtable event in Canberra to discuss the sonography workforce and propose solutions to current concerns. The Roundtable brought together over 20 leaders from across the world of sonography, government, and the rural allied health sector.
The ASA has produced a report from that initial discussion, which contains the key points and recommendations recorded at the Roundtable.
Key report recommendations:
- Incentivisation is needed for diagnostic imaging sites to take on student placements
- Consider developing an apprenticeship/cadetship model for students
- Consider accreditation of training sites and trainers
- Specialist pathways should be further developed, in addition to general sonography
- Stronger focus on competency-based student placements and assessment
- Financial incentivisation will help enable organisations to take on sonography students
- The onus should be on universities to organise placements, rather than on students
- Collaboration is key – particularly between the private, public, and university sectors
- Demands on sonographers’ time could be freed up through different measures including triaging between referrers and diagnostic imaging to address possible overservicing
- Developing measures to address workforce shortages in rural areas, including promoting and training locals to help retain staff
- Developing measures to address the shortage of clinical supervisors in sonography, including subsidising the cost of training for clinical supervisors
- Developing measures to ensure career satisfaction and reduce burnout.
The ASA will use this report to advocate its key recommendations to Government, industry, the education sector, and the wider sonography profession. The ASA plans to hold another Roundtable event with Government and industry partners, to present and discuss the recommendations and their implementation, as well as the allocations of funding required from the different sectors and government.
The New Zealand Sonographer Advisory Group (NZSAG) was formed in late 2022 to assist the ASA on addressing issues in New Zealand. NZSAG has been very active in the first few months of 2023, assisting in the responses to two consultations. On 8 February 2023, the ASA met with the Chief Allied Health Officer and had a workforce discussion with key industry stakeholders. The conversation was very productive, and the Ministry of Health aims to build a picture of key issues impacting on the health workforce.
Australian Government Federal Budget 2023-24
The 2023-24 Budget was announced on 9 May 2023 with a significant focus on health, items relevant to sonography practice in Australia included -
Under the Health Insurance (Diagnostic Imaging Services Table) Regulations (No. 2) 2020 (DIST), all R-type services must meet the requirements stipulated in clause 2.1.2.
Changes were made in the Budget, and the current clause 2.1.7 on Musculokeletal (MSK) ultrasound services - personal attendance will be removed. From 1 November 2023, personal attendance by the responsible medical practitioner will no longer be required for MSK ultrasound services. Clinical supervision of MSK ultrasound by the responsible medical practitioner will still be required in accordance with the regulations.
Scope of practice review for Allied Health
$3 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25 to undertake a review that examines current models of care against community needs and recommends appropriate expansion to scopes of practices and models of care for a range of health professionals providing primary care services (both registered and self-regulated, including medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, and allied health). The Review will involve extensive consultation with various stakeholders including (but not limited to) state and territory governments, health services, peak bodies, employers, relevant health professional Boards and education and training institutions.
ASA consultations and submissions update
The ASA has responded to several consultations in 2023, including a proposed AHPRA data strategy, a consultation on a sustainable healthcare module, the Australia pre-budget submission, the post-budget response New Zealand, the Student Placement Project New Zealand and Primary Health Tasmania Allied Health Engagement Strategy (live video consultation only).
NSW Town Hall Meeting on Sonographer Awards
On 14 March 2023, the ASA hosted a Town Hall meeting on sonographer awards in NSW. The interactive meeting was very well attended: participants had opportunities to respond to polls, provide comments and speak to the wider group during the lively online discussion. This event has been invaluable in providing the ASA with material on members’ views on Award reform going forward. We will continue to engage the NSW membership on this issue.
In 2022, the ASA held over 30 meetings with health ministers, shadow health ministers and advisors across the country from diverse sides of politics, as well as unions, Commonwealth and State Department of Health officials, MRPBA, RANZCR, CAHOs, and representatives from the Health Chief Executives Forum (HCEF) to brief them on the issue of sonographer regulation.
In 2023 the ASA has already had 10 meetings to discuss sonographer regulation. Key meetings included Professor Brendan Murphy, Penny Shakespeare, Matthew Williams, Michael Ryan, Teressa Gorondi and Jonathan Bray from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, Dr Gordon Reid MP, and RANZCR.
We have been working with the Federal Shadow Health Minister, Senator Anne Ruston, on tabling questions on notice on the subject of sonographer regulation.