What IT/IM Innovations Are Going To Make The Greatest Difference To General Practice?


There are many things that people suggest that Information Technology (IT) and Information Management (IM) can do to improve general practice. These improvements can be concerned with practice efficiencies, safer patient care, better patient outcomes, more sustainable business, more profitable business and cost effective delivery of treatments.

A survey of the Pulse IT readership was conducted during November and December 2006 asking respondents the 5 most important innovations/enhancements they believed would contribute the most to improving general practice. The survey was made available through a fax back 2-sided survey form and could also be completed on-line at the Pulse IT website.


The survey received 139 respondents that had completed the task of separately identifying 5 separate things. Communication innovations (Table 1 [PDF - 113Kb]) were the most frequent innovations/enhancements selected with nearly half of respondents (47.5%) selecting “Specialist reports received electronically” in their 5 options making it the most frequent option chosen. This was followed by approximately one third of the sample (35.3% and 34.5% respectively) choosing “Electronic discharge summaries” and “Ability to send referrals electronically from within the clinical software” as one of their options. Approximately one quarter of the sample (24.5% and 23.0% respectively) chose “Sending electronic prescriptions to a hub to be pulled down by a pharmacist used by the patient” and “Timely and effective technical support” to round off the 5 most frequently selected options.

At the other end of the ranking 5% of respondents chose a not listed innovation which included “Better integration of voice recognition software” and “Secure Medical VPN”. Less than 5% of respondents chose the innovations of the “Ability to individually customise the look, feel and functionality of GP software” (4.3%), “Population health applications” (3.6%), “Hand held computers” (2.9%) and “Message acknowledgement systems for audit trails” (1.4%).

The characteristics of the respondents of the survey are presented in Table 2 [PDF - 113Kb]. Detailed analysis (with 95% confidence intervals and relative standard error of the estimates) is provided below:


It appears that the most significant improvements the respondents believe to make a difference to General Practice are related to the sharing of information from different healthcare sectors. It is possible that standards and the building blocks that will assist this are not well understood by the majority of GPs and their staff, and that further education is required in these areas if advocacy and progress are to be made. However one must not forget that the end users are after applications that allow them to effectively, safely and efficiently care for their patients that are moving through different aspects of the health care system.


The author and Pulse IT would like to acknowledge the help from the number of people who assisted in formulating the list of Innovations and enhancements for consideration. These included doctors and practice staff who participate in the GPCG discussion list and other software forums.

We would also like to acknowledge the support of a number of the Divisions of General Practice who assisted in promoting the survey as well.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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