Snail mail still the method of choice for many GPs
A large minority of general practice staff still prefer to send medical records by post and fax despite the majority thinking that sharing records electronically had the potential to either streamline work or accelerate the referral process, a survey has found.
It also found that despite many practices feeling the pressure to increase bookings or cut costs, surprisingly few were using technologies like online booking or automated reminder systems.
And uptake of the PCEHR was very low, with only 16 per cent of rural and remote, 12 per cent of city-based and nine per cent of regional practices using the system.
The survey of 423 health professionals, conducted in February by clinical and practice management software vendor MedicalDirector, included 214 GPs and 134 practice managers as well as specialists and nurses.
Of these respondents, just over half (55 per cent) were from capital cities, about a quarter from regional areas (26 per cent), and a fifth from rural or remote areas (19 per cent).
The results appear in a white paper, Practice pressures and eHealth realities, which aims to identify the challenges health professionals currently face in terms of providing good patient care and sustaining their businesses, and to uncover opportunities brought about by electronic health systems.
To understand those challenges, MedicalDirector asked the survey respondents what kept them awake at night. Overwhelmingly, the survey found, the threat of government changes created the most concern.
Almost 48 per cent of respondents are worried government changes could have a negative effect on patient outcomes. They also said their practices were under pressure to cut costs or increase bookings due to speculation about changes to Medicare or the introduction of a co-payment.
Fourteen per cent said they have already seen a drop in patient bookings. However, practices don't seem to be turning to technological solutions to help. Only 17 per cent use an online appointment booking system, with another 10 per cent planning to do so this year, while only 28 per cent use an automated reminder system to notify patients of upcoming appointments.
And despite almost all respondents saying they used practice management or clinical software, 42 per cent still preferred to send records via post and fax, despite more than 70 per cent thinking that sharing records electronically had the potential to either streamline work or accelerate the referral process for patients.
According to MedicalDirector, these comments show that more needs to be done to make secure messaging work across technology providers.
“When you add up the cost of sending or receiving patient information via traditional mail, particularly with rising postal prices, you’re suddenly looking at hundreds of dollars and a lot of extra time spent stuffing and opening envelopes,” MedicalDirector CEO Phil Offer said.
“In this day and age, when health professionals have access to systems that send information quickly and securely via electronic means, many are missing a great opportunity to spend less time on paperwork, and more time with their patients.”
Rural and remote practices seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to sharing records electronically, with only a third of those in a rural or remote areas opting to use snail mail.
They are also more likely to use the PCEHR, according to the survey, with 16 per cent likely to use it compared with 12 per cent of city-based and nine per cent of regional respondents.
When it comes to what technology trend they thought would have the most opportunity to benefit health professionals and/or improve patient outcomes, there was a fair split between the answers.
Twenty-six per cent thought health-related apps were the way of the future, 21 per cent thought telemedicine, 17 per cent said the PCEHR, another 17 per cent said online appointment booking systems, 10 per cent said wearable tech like Fitbit and nine per cent said check-in kiosks at the practice.
The white paper is available from the MedicalDirector website.
Posted in Australian eHealth