On the road with a digital health trainer

According to Katrina Otto, one of Australia's leading medical software trainers, doctors have been asking for more hands-on instruction with digital health this year prompted by growing patient demand and a desire for better practice management.

"It may not be easy for a lot of practices, but we're not going to go back to paper files; we need to accept digital health is the future," says Katrina. Ms Otto has been working directly with hundreds of general practices and specialist practices in the past 26 years.

"I would like to see us aim for continual improvement and the one thing I know for sure is what we do now in our paper-filled practices, chasing patient information all day every day, could be so much more efficient," she said.

Over the years, Katrina has seen a marked change in attitude from GPs when they realise the benefits digital health could bring to their practice. Katrina has been working with the NSW Medicare Locals and a representative from NSW eHealth to advise, encourage and support GPs to learn about both NSW HealtheNet and the My Health Record system.  

"Having recently spent time advising Sydney doctors that NSW hospitals are connected via HealtheNet to enable viewing of digital health summaries, I saw a really positive response.

"Now that the hospital is able to see Shared Health Summaries with important patient clinical information such as medications, allergies, medical history and immunisations, there is definitely a renewed interest in the My health Record system in GP software. Doctors are starting Shared Health Summaries by focusing on those patients likely to present to hospital.

"A lot of practices spent last year cleaning up their clinical data so they are now software-ready. Previously the doctors had said to me 'What's the point in uploading as nobody can see it'. Now this has all changed, we are starting to get more use and much renewed interest.

"Doctors used to say to me they had all the information they needed in their practice," she said. "But the reality is that staff run around all day chasing patient information. Information is being faxed, often lost, is inaccurate, and patients are put at risk unnecessarily. I tell doctors by sharing information electronically they won't have to pay staff to scan, they won't have to take phone calls from the hospital at midnight, or be interrupted, and this will benefit doctors and their practice staff.  The My Health Record system will save money, time and protect patient confidentiality."

"A Caringbah GP who had recently attended an education session prior to being assisted and supported to connect to the My Health Record system had been a vocal sceptic but recently changed his mind. 

"He has since said, 'I always thought it was my job as the patient's GP to be the curator of their health record but now I see there are times I am not there and having information available anytime, anywhere is a very helpful thing'."

"Without fail, everywhere I go across Australia, doctors want to share information for the benefit of the patient. They want the hospitals to see the health summary and patients want it too. One thing I hear from doctors continuously is 'I never had any training on my medical software'. Assuming people will know how to use their technology well and feel confident doing so is a mistake. Training needs to be seen as a continuing quality improvement process and an investment in patient care and safety.

"It is important for practices to begin sharing information for those 20% of their patients that they see all the time and there is Assisted Registration tools in most GP software to enable the practice to register the patient in the practice. It takes about 90 seconds to complete the patient registration using the tool in the clinical software.  Once the patient is registered and if the data is in good quality, a Shared Health Summary can be uploaded quickly, usually in less than two minutes." 

"There are Assisted Registration tools in most GP software and if the clinical data is of good quality in the record it can be uploaded quickly."

Ms Otto recommends the following action plan for doctors starting to use the My Health Record system:

  • clean up the medications and medical history lists for 'active' patients
  • upload Shared Health Summaries when you next see elderly, chronic and complex patients
  • if your patient is already in Emergency and you get a call from ED, ask them for the patient's consent and upload the Shared Health Summary there and then so the hospital staff can access important information instantly
  • take a team perspective and get help from nurses and registrars to clean up health summaries for at-risk patients so it doesn't all rest with the GP.

Check out the digital health features on GP's desktop software: http://www.digitalhealth.gov.au/using-the-my-health-record-system/ehealth-training-resources/software-demonstrations

Need help with implementing digital health and the My Health Record system in your practice? Call Customer Care on 1300 901 001 or email [email protected]