eOrders the trigger for My Health Record

This week saw a major move forward for eHealth in Australia with the news that Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology will now be routinely uploading pathology reports to the My Health Record for patients whose doctors request tests electronically.

It's not just the addition of information of real worth to patients and their record that is the breakthrough. There is also the potential spur it might give to the wider use of electronic ordering of diagnostic tests in general. While eOrders aren't new – SNP's CEO Michael Harrison told us that about 80 per cent of orders coming from GPs these days are now done electronically – it will hopefully influence specialists, who tend to order more complex tests but who also tend to use their computers to write a request and then print it out, to also send them electronically.

While efficiency is one aspect, the real benefit of eOrders is to patient safety. As, Dr Harrison says, in pathology, once you remove the specimen from the patient you are completely reliant on the identifiers that are on that specimen and your IT system. This is why Sonic, the rest of the private pathology industry and the Australian Digital Health Agency have insisted that only eOrders with the Individual Healthcare Identifier embedded in the message will trigger the eventual upload.

We hear that Sonic Healthcare is close to announcing in another big market that it will begin informing requesting doctors of the My Health Record upload capability, and the others shouldn't be too far behind.

We also had a chat to former AMA president and PCEHR reviewer Steve Hambleton about his experiences with My Health Record workflow and how he discusses the system with his patients. Dr Hambleton has a complex patient list, with some patients and their families having been with him for many of the 31 years he's been at Kedron Park Medical Centre in Brisbane, and he thinks the new capability will be great, particularly for those patients who like to see their results and come in armed with their folders full of paper.

Allied to systems such as Queensland's The Viewer, which lets GPs see their patients' hospital medical records, GPs are now being given access to information that they have had to do without before. Dr Hambleton believes that in the future, they'll look back at today and wonder how they managed.

He tells the story of a patient who rang him from hospital to tell him he'd had a CT scan but didn't know why. Dr Hambleton said he was able to check the results through The Viewer and assure the patient he needed to be in hospital. He also tells the story of a new patient he saw just this week, a spouse of an existing patient, who has a complex medical problem that will require regular pathology. That patient has opted out of the My Health Record, but as Dr Hambleton explained to him, had he not opted out, the tests Dr Hambleton was ordering for him that day might have already been done by the hospital and available to view on his record.

While certainly not pressuring patients to sign up, there's little doubt that in circumstances like this, some patients may change their minds. GPs are reminded they can still do assisted registration for any patient who has opted out but might want to reconsider.

Meanwhile, over at the Northern Beaches Hospital on Sydney's insular peninsula, things have not got off to a great start. This $600m public-private partnership (PPP), the baby of former NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, had a horror opening last October, losing senior management and clinical staff in the very first week and continuing to make headlines in the local tabloids ever since.

The PPP was always controversial and Healthscope is taking a lot of the blame for its ills, but the experience of public hospitals such as the Queensland Children's Hospital and the three-year saga of the Perth Children's Hospital show that there is always political pressure to open on schedule, even if no one is ready.

No surprise then that NBH appears to have had a few problems with its IT – the paging system didn't seem to work at all, there was unfamiliarity with the EMR, and the view that NBH doctors had of the Cerner EMR used by Mona Vale Hospital and Northern Sydney LHD also wasn't working. We hear there was quite a lot more that went wrong but hasn't been made public yet, and while much has since been rectified, the hospital is still under the pump.

Our other top stories this week were the Jade release of Best Practice and its plans to integrate with Whitecoat for CommBank's new Health Claim platform. This will go head to head with Tyro in the merchant terminal market, so we would be interested in your views on which one you see as the most useful for private practices.

ADHA is also no longer subsidising older standards that were previously free, angering some, and there was quite a bit of interest on our Facebook chat page about the new interoperability solution that South Western Sydney PHN has invested in through Allscripts' dbMotion solution. This is a big initiative from a PHN and they are keen to have others take a look.

That brings us to our poll question for the week: Will Sonic Healthcare's connection to the My Health Record spur greater use of eOrders?

Sign up to our weekend edition or Pulse+IT Chat to vote, or leave your thoughts below.

Last week, we asked: Is it possible to adequately measure the meaningful use of digital health tools? Most think so: 69 per cent said yes, 31 per cent said no.

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