GP2GP sets records for medical record transfers

NZ's Patients First is getting ready to release an updated version of its GP2GP patient file transfer system, featuring an increase to the file size limit and some back-end fixes that promise to make the system run more smoothly.

GP2GP has been operating in New Zealand for over two years to allow general practices to easily transfer medical data when a patient moves out of an area or to a new practice. In May, it set a record of 32,689 transfers for the month.

Patients First's new CEO, Jayden MacRae, said the main new feature was an increase in message size from 5MB to 20MB.

“It has been limited to 5MB in the past, which for most patients is more than sufficient, but you do have some people with quite a lot of information in their medical records so we are now supporting 20MB transfers,” Mr MacRae said.

“That's a four-fold increase and should cover the vast majority of the population.”

There will also be some back-end error handling improvements that won't be visible to end users. The improvements are necessary to smooth out problems with the different clinical code sets that some practices use.

Mr MacRae said that since its introduction, 968 practices have used GP2GP to either send or receive messages, and 826 practices have send more than 10 patient files each, which he said illustrates consistent and regular use.

GP2GP is a completely voluntary system with no financial incentives to use it, and yet Patients First's outgoing CEO, Andrew Terris, estimates that it has seen upwards of 95 per cent adoption across the general practice community.

“We think that adoption is driven on the utility that they find with the service,” Mr Terris said. “We went out there and said we think this functionality will save you time and it is much safer than getting an inbox document with all of the previous records in an unstructured way.

“We have found that the adoption rate has been stellar. I think it is largely because people do believe in and see the utility of that. Last month we ran the highest number of volumes through it. It had levelled off at around 25,000 but it has started to go north again, so last month saw about 32,000 transfers.”

Mr Terris said the main incentive for practices to use the system was the time saved by practice staff on printing, photocopying and licking envelopes. On the importing side, it also saves time for the receiving practice in that they don't have to re-enter patient data.

“The business case really stacks up on ease of use, minimising the admin burden and having the record in a structured way that you can start using straight away,” he said. “It has sold itself.”

The actual technology behind how it works is a case study in co-operation between the PMS vendors to achieve an easy to use system, something that seems unlikely to happen any time soon in Australia.

Mr Terris said the secret weapon was a toolkit developed by Patients First and the vendors that they affectionately call babelfish, after the instant translator in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Babelfish acts as a piece of middleware between the differing systems that is able to translate data moving from one system to another, where it is downloaded straight into the recipient's PMS.

This technology is also starting to be used for some New Zealand ePrescription Service (NZePS) transactions as it can automatically translate payloads.

“Using that approach rather than going to each vendor and getting them to build a component is probably a bit lucky, but on reflection it is an incredibly useful way of doing it and is a contrast with some of the challenges that you are experiencing in Australia,” Mr Terris said.

“We use the term 'co-opertition'. Yes you can compete on your service and your products, but when you actually have the same functionality, it makes sense to team up. And that's really the philosophy that the PMS vendors went into GP2GP with.”

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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