GPs must lead eHealth debate: RACGP president-elect

Promoting the status of the expert-generalist and leading the debate on eHealth are two of the main missions for the next president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, WA-based GP and adjunct associate professor Frank Jones.

Dr Jones was announced as the president-elect today following a competitive month-long election, in which he vied with four other GPs to take over from Liz Marles when she completes her term in October.

Dr Jones is a full-time GP of 30 years' standing with appointments as senior lecturer in general practice at the University of Western Australia and adjunct associate professor in general practice at the University of Notre Dame.

He is the owner practice principal of Murray Medical Group in Mandurah, south of Perth, which he describes as a progressive, multi-disciplinary, non-corporate private practice of 21 GPs with a multitude of allied health professionals working from the same site. He was a procedural GP obstetrician for 25 years and still has visiting rights at his local hospital.

In his candidate statement, Dr Jones highlighted the role of the expert-generalist, the need to promote and refine “brand GP” and “brand RACGP”, and the central role that general practice must play in eHealth.

“Information technology must be at the heart of any discussion around quality 21st century general practice,” he said. “High quality patient records are fundamental to good patient care, and eHealth records, telehealth and telemedicine is pivotal college business: we must lead this debate.”

He also highlighted the wealth of information collected by practice systems and how this needs to be better used for research purposes. “Academia needs to reflect front-line GP needs,” he said.

In a statement to Pulse+IT outlining his thoughts on eHealth and health IT, Dr Jones said GPs have “a wealth of untapped clinical information within their systems which have the potential to completely alter the way we practice.”

“GP based research emanating from our IT records will enable the profession to show government and our communities what a cost efficient and quality outcomes based speciality we really are.”

He characterised GP clinical information systems as being “years ahead” of hospital systems and that the limited interaction between primary and acute care IT needed to be fixed before a shared electronic record could work.

He said he was supportive of the RACGP's submission to the federal government's review of the PCEHR, calling it a “sensible, reasoned and reflective response”, but he was critical of the PCEHR roll-out, saying that because there was no general agreement on its design, the project had failed.

“Even though there was clinical passion for a system, too many other players with different agendas impeded progress,” he said.

“As an example, as a practicing physician seeing a patient after hours I need critical clinical information which will guide me to deliver the best outcome for my patient. Let's get that bit right first! I do think an opt out system would be better. I have uploaded a few summaries but to no advantage to anyone at this stage.”

IT has revolutionised the way he is able to practice medicine, he said. “Having up to date progress notes, full summaries, recall systems and immediate access to pathology and radiology is now an accepted norm. However, as usual it's the quality of information input that is most important: 'rubbish in-rubbish-out' scenario!

“Most medical software is very user friendly; it really then behoves the efficient and caring medic to input correctly.”

Dr Jones' views on eHealth in full can be seen here, and his candidate statement on the RACGP website (PDF).

Posted in Australian eHealth

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