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Digital Health

Using technology to better care for patients

South Western Sydney PHN assists practices transition from paper-based clinical record keeping to becoming digital health (eHealth) practices.

 

Department of Health's eHealth definition:

The electronic management of health information to deliver safer, more efficient, better quality healthcare.

 

Key digital health technologies

  • Discharge summaries enable patients to receive continuity of care after a hospital event and provide the practice with the information they need to know about the episode of care the patient received while in hospital.

    There is a wide range of variations in health facilities around discharge summaries, but the most significant issue is that discharge summaries are often misplaced and do not reach the intended practitioner.

    eDischarge summaries will be sent electronically and contain information about a patient’s episode of care, including their diagnosis and medication while in hospital, to provide the practitioner with the information required to determine the patient’s ongoing care needs.

    eDischarge summaries will:

    • Save time at the practice by not having to chase up information from the hospital
    • Improve the process of discharge transfer to ensure that the right information is held in the right place
    • Improve continuity of care through accurate and timely communication and clinical handover across practitioners
    • Reduce scanning and faxing
    • Ensure discharge summaries are clear and legible removing the risk of miscommunication through illegible handwriting
    • Provide the opportunity to share discharge summaries with a wider range of practitioners involved in the care of a patient, such as allied health, specialists and aged care facilities
    • Create efficient clinical systems through direct download of the discharge summary to clinical desktop
  • It is not uncommon for a patient to either misplace their referral or forget to take it with them to see the practitioner. Even if referrals are faxed, their paper-based nature creates the need for data entry into local electronic systems.

    Since 2000-01 referrals from general practitioners to allied health services have increased by 63 per cent. There is great variability in the content, quality and clarity of the referrals created and sent today which can adversely impact the effective and efficient assessment of and subsequent care given to the individual. eReferrals will allow for referrals to be sent electronically along with all the relevant information including the patient’s case history and relevant diagnostic tests.

    eReferrals will:

    • Save time by not having to spend hours printing, folding and putting referrals into envelopes
    • Reduce the number of letters sent and received and eliminate the need to fax referrals
    • Reduce postage and stationery costs
    • Reduce the size of your database as you will not need to scan referrals into the system
    • Eliminate the need to manage paper referrals in folders
    • Save time by not trying to decipher the hand-written information
    • Save time by not having to call other practices looking for ‘lost’ referrals
    • Reduce the number of queries between referrer and referee
    • Improve the process of referral transfer to ensure that the right consumer information is held in the right place
    • Improve communication between specialists and general practitioners due to the timely availability of information, eventually leading to improvements in quality and safety of patient care
  • My Health Record is a secure online summary of an individual’s health information, and is available to all Australians. Healthcare providers authorised by their healthcare organisation can access My Health Record to view and add to their patients’ health information.

    My Health Record contains:

    • Event summaries
    • Discharge summaries
    • Event Summaries
    • Pathology reports
    • Current medications
    • Allergies and adverse reactions

    My Health Record:

    • Allows practitioners to have better access to accurate information about patients
    • Allows quick and efficient sharing of patient information
    • Saves time by not having to search for records and having accurate information immediately available, allowing more time to treat patients

    The benefits of a My Heath Record will be most significant for patients who need to share information with different providers or who have complex conditions. This might include those with chronic conditions, mothers and newborns, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with a disability, and older Australians.

  • Prescriptions play a significant role in healthcare in Australia. On average, more than 200 million scripts are dispensed yearly in Australia.

    Manual prescribing and dispensing these prescriptions requires repeated data input, manual signing, lots of paper and restricts practitioners from fully utilising clinical support software.

    Patients are inconvenienced by delays in obtaining prescriptions, issues when prescriptions are lost and even confusion over exactly what medications they should be taking and when. 

    Nearly one in three unplanned hospital admissions in those aged over 75 years is associated with prescribing errors. Hence, preventable medication errors cost around $380 million per year in the public hospital system.

    In some sectors, eMedication processes are mature, but as further eMedication initiatives gather pace, such as medication history lists and medication profiles, more comprehensive medication information will be available to assist in reducing medication errors.

    eMedication management will enable point-to-point (practice-to-pharmacy) communication to:

    • Enable the practice to check the validity of a lost prescription
    • Save time by not having to re-issue a lost prescription
    • Enable the practice to verify if a prescription has been filled and dispensed
    • Allow practitioners to access accurate and up-to-date information about the patient’s medications and medication history as eHealth initiatives roll out
    • Save time by not having to manage discrepancies on the prescription
    • Save time by reducing queries from pharmacies that may have problems deciphering the hand-written information on the prescription
       
  • SWSPHN encourage health services providing telehealth services to align with RACGP and MBS guidelines; telehealth solutions should be secure, encrypted and align with each practice’s policies. Below is a non-exhaustive list of telehealth solutions available and their contact details. SWSPHN encourages all health services to comprehensively conduct their own research before choosing a telehealth solution. 

    SWSPHN recommends: Healthdirect Video Call 

    • Free
    • Web-based (no software installation required for both clinicians and patients)
    • Will work on smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs (minimum requirements apply)
    • Allows screen sharing
    • Allows document sharing
    • Quick and easy onboarding of practices
    • Accounts managed by PHNs
    • Purpose-built for health providers to offer to their patients for teleconsultations
    • Developed by Healthdirect Australia – a national, government-owned, not-for-profit organisation.
  • Electronic prescriptions (ePrescriptions/ePrescribing) is being rolled out across Australia and are currently available by providing a ‘token’ for patients to receive access to their electronic prescription.

Privacy and security

Protecting Australian’s private health information is a priority. The eHealth system is protected by existing and new legislation: The Privacy Act 1998 and The Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act 2011.

Strict privacy and security measures have been applied to the eHealth record system.  Your eHealth Record is protected by data security features such as:

  • Audit trails – you can see who has looked at your eHealth record and when (this is not possible with paper based records)
  • Technology and data management controls and ongoing security testing
  • Security measures such as encryption, secure logins and passwords

In an emergency situation, a healthcare professional will be able to check your record without your permission. This will only be allowed in line with relevant laws, and if it is believed that your (or other people’s) health or safety is at risk.

 

Primary care resources

Visit the Primary Care Resources page for more information of digital health and other resources.

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