App allows GPs to personalise the MBS

A Northern Territory-based GP has developed a desktop app that allows users to search for the correct MBS item number and sort commonly used items into folders according to personal preference.

The MBS Item Browser app was designed by Cameron Edgell, who practices on Elcho Island, situated north-east of Arnhem Land. Dr Edgell also has a software development background and has designed a program that is still in use in his native UK.

Having moved to Australia in 2007 and confronted the challenge of the almost 6000 item number on the MBS, Dr Edgell has pre-configured the app to include the 200 or so most commonly used items by GPs.

“Most GPs would not use more than a couple of hundred item numbers and quite a few would use significantly less than that, but nonetheless, coming from the UK it is a bit of a challenge to get to grips with the MBS,” Dr Edgell said.

“Given that as a GP you are using quite a lot of item numbers, it's good to be able to have rapid access to be reminded of exactly which is the appropriate item number and what the details of using it are.”

There is the alternative of the Department of Health's MBS Online, but Dr Edgell said this is a relatively slow way of getting around the MBS, and it only allows you to type in one item at a time.

“Another option is to purchase a book that is published periodically, but that costs about $50 delivered and it goes out of date quite rapidly,” he said.

“What I've produced is an app that has the MBS schedule offline – it incorporates the full details of the MBS on the desktop for instant access – but what it enables you to do is sort the item numbers into folders that reflect your own usage, so you can organise the MBS in the way that you use it.”

Items can be sorted into folder sets and can be annotated with an alias and comments. Bookmarks can also be added to selected items and they can be searched by category, group and subgroup. The fee for each item is also displayed.

The app also allows users to create and print out cheat sheets, which some professional organisations currently distribute to members. However, Dr Edgell said his program allows people to customise their own cheat sheet and to update it and print it out at any time.

It also allows users to add non-MBS items, he said. “The program is mainly about the MBS but practices generally have a number of fees that relate to items that they charge for, like workers' compensation and travel vaccinations.

"Within this program you can add items that relate to the different areas that are non-Medicare, so you can access those quickly as well.

“You can also import data into the program from external sources like the AMA's fees list amd workers' compensation bodies.”

Most clinical and practice management software contains the item numbers within the billing section of the program, but this requires the user to know in advance exactly which item number to use.

“Those programs don't really enable you to personalise the MBS to any degree,” he said. “They provide the lists within the program and they update them, but they more or less assume that the GP knows in advance that they want this item number.

“My program really complements the main software in that way. I'm a full-time GP and I use it on a daily basis and find it greatly enhances my use of the MBS.”

Dr Edgell has designed MBS Item Browser as a desktop app that can also be mobilised by being saved onto a USB stick. It is an offline app but registered users will receive regular updates when the MBS is altered.

“There are a couple of smartphone apps out there but I've designed it to sit on the desktop rather than a smartphone,” he said. “I've done that to reflect the way most doctors work.”

He has also made it as cheap as possible, charging $14 per user as a one-off fee, with a discount for registrars and for volume buyers.

Organisations that want to purchase the app for many users also have the option of adding their logos and a weblink.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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