The advent of e-health: the future is up to us
IN AN age where our teenage children can download movies off super-fast broadband Internet connections, you could be forgiven for thinking that the progress in general practice computerisation has been inch by inch.
But is this still the case?
Over the past few years, I have travelled to many different general practices as part of my role as an Australian General Practice Accreditation Limited (AGPAL) surveyor and I have seen the progress away from paper-based records, to hybrid (paper and computer), to (finally) fully computerised medical records.
It is happening… We now have MBS item numbers to encourage us to take a further step and move to the realms of video consultations. These new item numbers will hopefully be a first step in directly recognising the importance and need for ongoing progress in the use of technology to make our job easier and our patients’ satisfaction with primary care greater.
Currently, the MBS item numbers will allow us to be able to offer clinical support to our patients accessing specialist care in a remote location, by video consultation.
Surely this is the first step in patients being able to access their GP via a video link? I sincerely hope so.
Our techno-savvy offspring will jump at the chance to consult with their GP in the comfort of their own home rather than having to take time off work or leave the coffee shops, to then sit and read magazines that are still printed on paper as they wait for their consultation with their GP.
We all know that the next generation wants things now. Time is precious.
I am already able to visit a patient in their own home and access our practice software system. By using a laptop and
mobile connectivity, I can effectively log onto our virtual server.
I can ‘see’ the patient’s medical record, check their current medication and past history and make more informed management decisions to address the current clinical need of my patient.
Wouldn’t it be great to complete the picture and order their e-prescription, their e-pathology, at the same time? This is not the wild dream of some idealistic general practitioner. It is possible and it will happen. The time is now.
There is motivation and commitment from government, the right groundwork is being done by the National E-Health Transition Authority and groups such as the RACGP National Standing Committee – e-health.
We must just continue to believe and move forward.
As a profession, we have shown that we embrace e-health issues and innovations – the GP’s desk does not look the same as it did 15 years ago.
The person behind the desk has also changed and adapted.
Clinical decision support software, online training and education all help to improve the quality of the care that we offer to our patients and communities.
Video consultations are the next step in augmenting this level of care. It may well mean that the GP’s day is further changed to having a ‘surgery’ of video consultations.
How we progress this forward is really up to us.
Our vision as to how we see general practice developing further is vitally important. I appreciate that video consultations will not be for everyone, but I think that their use will expand and grow in much the same way that computers have done over the last 15 years.
It’s an exciting time; I encourage you to embrace it.
Dr Civil is the chair of the RACGP Telehealth Taskforce, and member of the RACGP National Standing Committee – e-health