Independent advice for practices to ImproveIT

Bayside Medicare Local in Melbourne has set up a program to provide free, independent assessments of ICT capability for GPs, pharmacists and psychologists in its catchment.

BML is working with community not-for-profit Infoxchange to conduct full assessments of individual practices' ICT capabilities through the ImproveIT project, which was trialled last year with five general practices, three psychology practices and three pharmacies.

BML eHealth support officer Suzy Canadi said the organisation was looking to work with up to 100 practices to help them understand their basic IT requirements. She said that while many had an IT support contractor, most were not familiar with the requirements of eHealth, including secure messaging and the PCEHR.

BML's eHealth portfolio manager Brendon Wickham said the idea was to provide practical assistance to practices to get them ready for eHealth.

“A lot of providers probably aren't ready for eHealth at the basic level, so what we decided to do was to try and help them with that first step up, before you talk about things like NASH certificates and HPI-Is and HPI-Os,” Mr Wickham said.

“We have contracted Infoxchange to do the assessments, as they have developed a methodology about going into a provider, assessing their business and then analysing it and reporting on it. It involves completely independent advice.”

The organisation ran a pilot last year that allowed Infoxchange to refine its methodology to cope with the differences between the provider types, Mr Wickham said. While GPs almost universally use eHealth-conformant software and pharmacies are well equipped, most psychology practices are not.

Ms Canadi said BML's eHealth team was finding that for the most part, psychology practices are still using paper or Word documents in addition to smartphones and iPads for bookings. “But as far as conformant eHealth software goes, there is not much of that.”

Not surprisingly, the most common request is for more help with secure messaging, she said. “We are asking providers about what help they would like from their Medicare Local and it is universally secure messaging. That partly reflects a little of the uncertainty and the early days of the PCEHR, but secure messaging has been bubbling away for years.”

Mr Wickham said the Infoxchange assessment process involved the company talking to the practice manager or principal in depth about their business and infrastructure. The assessment includes the creation of a network diagram that shows the practice what their current set-up includes.

It also provides recommendations and suggestions for improvement. The recommendations are not mandatory, and they are prioritised to guide the practice on making decisions regarding future planning.

However, as Infoxchange is an independent organisation, they do not recommend particular brands or vendors.

“What they do when they go into a provider is they really ask about their business,” he said. “That includes things like social media to try and understand them individually and what they are trying to achieve, because that directly impacts on the advice that they give regarding the technology.

“Once they've got the reports and they have been interviewed and Infoxchange has a sense of where they want to be in the short, medium and long term, they then provide recommendations based on that. It's entirely up to the practice then about what they do.

“There is common advice, such as if they are still on Windows XP that they have to get off it, but it can be a surprise for providers who have probably never been assessed this way before in this context. It's quite new to them, but this will allow them to know exactly what they have to do to be where they want to be in the next two or three years.”

As the process is quite labour-intensive, BML is limiting it to 100 providers over a 12-month period.

“We are getting really great feedback about it just because it is a totally new and very useful way to look at their business,” Mr Wickham said. “Robust IT infrastructure is something that we as a Medicare Local see is fundamental."

Posted in Allied Health

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