RACGP election interview: Dr Sam Heard

Darwin-based GP Sam Heard has a deep knowledge of eHealth, having helped set up health informatics firm Ocean Informatics as well as the openEHR Foundation, of which he has been a director and chairman.

In what areas do you feel IT could most improve general practice, either clinically, administratively or both?

1. Workflow: Business processes within a practice are still very important. One problem at the moment is the mixture of messages, scanned material and email with clinical data. Linking information to the patient’s file as soon as it arrives in the practice is crucial; otherwise the patient arrives from the appointment and information is in a folder somewhere. No easier looking through email than other trays! Need to have a single inbox for everything linked to the patient. Probably tight integration with email would be most helpful (a la first version of Argus).

2. Shared care: Antenatal care with a patient app that integrates with doctor’s desktop. Antenatal care has become a mess again with the introduction of IT. It is not simple as it requires an EHR model that is suitable.

Have you used the PCEHR, and if so in what capacity? (e.g. to review patient information, upload a shared health summary etc).

No, we have myEHR in the NT which does better than PCEHR. Apparently it will be linked soon.

What do you think about the PCEHR in its current form?

Good infrastructure for use in future with apps that suit clinicians and patients. In future the government needs to let other vendors utilise this or it will soon be irrelevant.

Do you agree with the college’s position that future functionality should be put on hold until existing functionality is improved and adopted by doctors and other health professionals and organisations?

It is a real risk to proceed rapidly with national infrastructure when you don’t have a national health service. However, I do think that mobile clinical and patient apps need to be developed early.

What future role do you see for the National E-Health Transition Authority?

Clearly ‘Transition’ needs to go….National eHealth Authority will need to exist in some form or the states will go to different gauge railways.

Medicare Locals are to be collapsed to a lesser number of Primary Healthcare Networks with funding for Medicare Local eHealth officers concluding. From an eHealth perspective, what material impact do you think these realignments will have on your own practice, and the practices of other RACGP members?

More centralisation so less diversity and local relevance is inevitable. Perhaps we will get more GP orientation as promised in the budget. The whole exercise seems a great waste of money in the NT where we will dissolve one organisation and create another for the third time in 10 years.

Do you see a future role in eHealth for PHNs, and if so in what capacity?

I most certainly do. I believe that local is the way ahead for IT in health – on standard EHRs. I would like to see PHNs as the hubs for IT development, linking through the PCEHR. The records we need to share are with allied health and other members of the primary health care team. Apps running on this infrastructure can provide a wealth of capability.

Have you conducted any telehealth consultations, and how do you think the regulatory/remuneration structures for the provision of such services could be improved?

I have from Katherine. There seems to be a genuine financial incentive for specialists. I do think that GPs with special knowledge should be available to isolated GPs under the same scheme as sometimes it is not specialist knowledge that is required.

What clinical software do you use in your own practice?

Best Practice.

If you had to pick one area for improvement in this software package, what would it be?

Integration with email.

Declared interest: Dr Heard is chairman of Ocean Informatics, the company that provides software for My eHealth Record (NT Shared EHR).

Posted in Australian eHealth

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