The AMA has issued a guide to minimum standards for communication between health services and GPs, including electronic patient records interfacing between hospitals and general practices, and transparent specialist appointment systems.
The guide, 10 Minimum Standards for Communicating between Health Services and General Practitioners and other Treating Doctors, provides key criteria for clinician communication to improve quality of care for patients and reduce duplication in the health system.
The AMA has urged all state and territory health departments, and the major private hospital operators to adopt the new standards.
“The guide covers the patient journey from the community setting to treatment in a hospital or healthcare facility and return to the community – including clinical handover back to the patient’s general practitioner,” AMA Vice President Dr Tony Bartone said.
“Improving the communication between all the different providers in the health system can help to reduce re-admissions and minimise adverse events. More effective communication delivers improvements in satisfaction and experience for patients, carers, families, doctors, and other health practitioners.”
Bartone said GPs are often frustrated by inadequate information about their patients’ progress in the health system.
“GPs are the key coordinators of patient care, monitoring and managing their care and treatment. Any disruption to clear communication channels can have an adverse effect on patients,” he said.
As part of the new standards, the AMA is calling for health services to have secure and reliable electronic systems that interface with patient information management systems commonly used by general practitioners and other treating doctors in private or community clinic settings.
The AMA said specialist outpatient services need to have transparent systems that inform patients and referring doctors of expected wait times for services, and track the priority of referrals.
According to the guide, discharge planning should include telephone, video or face-to-face case conferencing prior to discharge that includes GPs or referring doctors, and a documented plan of care.
“We are delivering very good outcomes for patients in the Australian health system, but we can and should do better. We are confident that the AMA guide will contribute to improved communication and, in turn, better overall care,” Bartone said.