AMA says go electronic to spare GPs from filling out forms

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is urging federal and state government departments to ensure that the medical forms they need to determine patient entitlements are provided in electronic format and are accessible from within their practice software.

The AMA has released a guide to the 10 minimum standards for medical forms that it would like to see adopted to relieve the red-tape burden on GPs.

A 2011 AMA survey of red tape in general practice that found completing Centrelink forms, third party/WorkCover requirements and Department of Veterans’ Affairs forms ranked among the top six areas of ‘red tape headache’.

The AMA argues that there are good clinical safety reasons to use standardised electronic forms, such as reducing transcription errors, as well as saving time for busy GPs.

The ability to populate medical forms with patient demographic data extracted from their software would also save time and ensure accuracy, it argues.

It is also of the view that any forms that require regular updating such as those from Centrelink should have a box at the top of the form that the doctor just needs to tick if there has been no significant change since the last report.

The AMA's 10 minimum standards are:

  1. The form is available in an electronic format that is compatible with existing electronic general practice medical records software.
  2. Forms are distributed through medical software vendors. Access to forms does not require web surfing during consultations, nor form-filling online.
  3. The form has a clear notation that states that medical practitioners may charge a reasonable fee for their services and whether the services are rebatable by Medicare or other insurers.
  4. Demographic and medical data can be selected to automatically populate the electronic form with adequate space being provided for comments.
  5. Only information essential for the purpose is requested and must not unnecessarily intrude upon patient privacy.
  6. Forms do not require the doctor to supply information when a patient can reasonably provide this in their own right.
  7. A copy is saved in the patient electronic medical file for future reference.
  8. Data file storage size is kept to a minimum.
  9. Prior to their release, forms are field tested under the auspices of a recognised medical representative organisation such as the AMA and the RACGP in association with the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA).
  10. Consideration should be given to future compliance with encrypted electronics transmission capability in line with new technologies being introduced into general practice.

AMA vice president Stephen Parnis said the AMA believes that medical forms can be designed in a way that captures the necessary information in a more simple and concise way.

“We understand that organisations depend heavily upon the accurate completion of medical forms to determine patient entitlements,” Dr Parnis said.

“The key is to focus on obtaining necessary information that is easily accessible, and which does not require doctors and medical practices spending excessive time filling in forms.”

The guide is available from the AMA website.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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