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HomeminewsElectronic-only Patient Communication

Electronic-only Patient Communication

Communication of patient information between healthcare services and government agencies by fax and paper forms will be a thing of the past within three years if the Royal College of General Practitioners gets its way.

The RCGP has published a position statement on the use of secure electronic communication within healthcare, calling for it to be the preferred and default method of communication for all health services and government agencies communicating with general practice and patients.

“It is somewhat bizarre that in an advanced era of rapid and timely electronic communications many Australian healthcare organisations still use the fax machine as the most important document communications device,” said RACGP president Dr. Frank R Jones.

“The technology and means exists and it is only a matter of desire and the era of the fax is over, it has served us well.”

…benefits for patients and practices will be enormous

According to the RACGP the majority of health services and government agencies communicating with general practice do not currently use electronic communication systems which are compatible with those existing in general practice. It is now a national priority for government healthcare agencies, all tertiary healthcare providers and all other healthcare providers to move into the 21st century by embracing secure digital communications.

“General practice has been equipped to communicate digitally for over a decade and we must embrace it now as the benefits for patients and practices will be enormous,” said Dr. Jones. “We advocate that services communicating with general practice work towards implementing two-way secure electronic communication within the next three years which is a very realistic timeframe.”

Healthlink, a major provider of clinical messaging services, has partnered with Oculo to facilitate the flow of referrals from General Practitioners into Oculo’s optometrist users through secure electronic messaging. The company currently links the information technology systems of more than 15,500 medical organisations across Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Island nations and Canada, each year exchanging more than 80 million pieces of clinical information within its secure system.

Healthlink CEO and founder Tom Bowden said this was the first time his company had worked with optometry despite having worked with many ophthalomology practices in Australia and New Zealand. “Our partnership philosophy is to work with experts in specialised fields of healthcare information technology and together to build world-class systems,” he said.

Dr. Kate Taylor, CEO of Oculo said as well as ensuring the exchange of information was secure, the new system would improve the provision of health care. “Primary eye care needs to happen in the community. We know that about half of people with diabetes and glaucoma aren’t getting adequate eye care. Making it easier for GPs to connect patients in to eye care services can help that. Making it seamless and secure is critical.”

“Our vision is to link the eye care ecosystem – everyone who helps patients have the best vision and best eye care. This goes beyond ophthalmologists and optometrists to connecting GPs, hospital eye services and low vision support organisations to all work together with patients at the heart of it all.

“We think the timing of this partnership with HealthLink is particularly apt, given the recent release of the RACGP’s position statement on electronic communication and call for the phasing out of paper-based communications like faxes within three years,” Dr. Taylor concluded.