GPs, specialists and hospital staff are said to be facing challenges in accessing patient records from other practitioners, resulting in unnecessary medical tests, treatments or procedures performed.
In a study by Choosing Wisely Australia, it was found that 54 per cent of GPs, 61 per cent of specialists and 36 per cent of health service providers said difficulties accessing information from doctors in other settings, including results, was a key reason for requesting unnecessary healthcare.
The 2018 Choosing Wisely Australia Report: Conversations for change study also identified that health professionals said patient expectations, potential for medical litigation and uncertainty of diagnosis are common factors for low-value healthcare.
NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris said moving forward, there is a need to reduce unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures, especially in primary and specialist care and in hospitals.
“Ultimately, the goal is ensuring less people are undergoing healthcare they don’t need and improving the quality and safety of our healthcare system. Improving communication across different care settings and empowering consumers to be active partners in their healthcare can help overcome barriers to optimal care.”
Interoperability, a common repository for electronic health records and seamless communication between care settings have been some of the more common solutions to the challenge. A recent report by CSIRO supported these findings.
“Ensuring new health software adheres to standards around language, terminology, openness, and data security and privacy will help facilitate the effective and safe sharing of individual health data across Australian service providers as well as with international organisations,” CSIRO said, in the report.
The CSIRO study also explored the value that can be unlocked from digital data, most pertinently through the facilitation of electronic health record engagement.
“The digitisation of the Australian healthcare system will go a long way towards improving integration and efficiency, but the shift needs to be more than just data sharing,” it stated.
“It requires multidisciplinary and co-located teams and networks for improved decision making, treatment, and health management services.”
[Read more: We need to get the digital basics right and quickly: Tim Kelsey | What’s needed to drive innovation and improve affordability in healthcare?]
As for electronic health records, a report tabled by the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) highlighted the benefits of the digital hospital program in Queensland.
It found that medical staff can access clinical information faster and that patient records are more legible.
“We can see digital hospitals are reducing the average length of stay and unplanned readmissions,” Queensland Chief Clinical Information Officer Dr Keith McNeil said.
“Doctors are telling us the new system means they can spend more time on patient care and less time on paperwork.
“Nurses are saying that the system means they have a huge amount of readily available information and they are not having to waste time searching for notes. This means the system is working.”