Patient portals high on the agenda at General Practice 2014

A panel of experts will provide insight into the use of patient portals for general practice at the Conference for General Practice, being held in Christchurch in late July.

Patient portals are high on the agenda in New Zealand, with the National Health IT Board (NHITB) currently working with district health boards and primary health organisations to try to get all general practices providing patients with access to a portal by the end of the year.

NZ's leading general practice software vendor, Medtech Global, offers a patient portal called ManageMyHealth that is estimated to be used in about 20 per cent of all practices. The technology is also being promoted in Australia, where Medtech has a smaller footprint.

ManageMyHealth allows practices to offer online appointment bookings, repeat script request functionality, recall reminders and lets patients view their medical records or lab results.

The NHITB says giving people direct access to their health information has benefits including enabling better management of chronic conditions and the ability for patients to have more input into their treatment.

The NHITB is supporting the development of both self-care patient portals and shared care plans for chronic and complex health needs as part of the National Health IT plan.

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners CEO Helen Morgan-Banda recently gave qualified support for patient portals, writing in an NHITB newsletter that the college was supportive of all methods of bringing primary healthcare to New Zealanders.

“However, we recognise there are a number of important issues around the portals that need careful consideration, such as permissions, confidentiality of information and access, security and the sharing of information with other health professionals, and the use of electronic communications for contacting patients urgently,” Ms Morgan-Banda said.

“The college has already spoken to the National Health IT Board about being actively involved in helping the college develop the processes and a code of practice around patient portals, so that members and the New Zealand public can feel comfortable and confident with this new way of accessing health services.”

General Practice 2014 will hold a panel session on day two of the conference on July 26, discussing the questions of whether patient portals are a must-have tool for GPs and whether they really can improve patient outcomes.

The Conference for General Practice will be held at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch from July 24 to 27 July.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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