Patient demand for GPs continues to rise in Australia, but workflow barriers and slow adoption of new technologies are continuing to frustrate practitioners and prevent their efforts to be efficient and patient-centric.

A recent report from the Productivity Commission found a growing demand for GPs in the Australian community, with the Australian Medical Association claiming the Federal Government is not providing enough investment to support general practice.

On top of the increase in patient demand and government funding pressures, mounting workflow inefficiencies continue to fuel further frustrations for busy practitioners trying to keep up with the pace of patient demand.

Communication barriers between healthcare professionals and institutions

One of the major frustrations doctors experience is the lack of effective communication between hospitals and clinics, with some methods – fax, handwritten notes, phone calls and mail – remaining unchanged in many ways in the past two decades.

A recent report from MedicalDirector, Interoperability: Synergising an Industry, found only a third of respondents were satisfied with the current flow of information between their practice and other healthcare providers.

The lack of communication channels between clinical practice and hospitals has historically been so inadequate that in 2015 the AMA asked the Victorian Government for a $50 million investment over a three year-period to improve lines of communication.

Dr. Charlotte Middleton, GP and Chief Medical Advisor at MedicalDirector, says her number one workflow frustration as a GP would be the lack of communication between healthcare professionals and institutions, which can cause delays and make it difficult to manage patients appropriately.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had a patient come to me after a hospital admission and I still don’t have the hospital discharge,” Middleton said. “And it could be two weeks after the patient has been discharged from hospital. Then it takes time having to chase it up and then have it faxed through, and meanwhile my patient consult time is being taken up. This happens every single day.”

Increased administrative burdens

The burden of administrative paperwork also impacts GP workflow and the hours all add up, cutting in on valuable patient consultation time.

“GPs spend at least six hours a week on admin alone,” Middleton said. “There’s constantly some paperwork that needs filling in and I feel that instead of getting easier every year it is getting worse. And when you’ve done a back-to-back day of seeing patients, then you have to fit in hours of admin work, it can all become very frustrating, tiring and stressful."

Archaic legacy workflow systems

Fax, paper and outdated workflow systems are another major frustration, and with fax still as one of the main methods of communication between all healthcare professionals, Middleton sid the status quo is simply absurd in the age of technology.

“Most of the world does not operate like that, yet our healthcare system does – and we’re all communicating that way,” Middleton said. “And again, it’s so frustrating the number of times I get calls from a reception saying they didn’t get that fax. This happens at least a few times a day. It interrupts my flow with a patient, because I’ll get a knock on the door, and it’s just so time consuming.”

Solutions offering workflow relief

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Medical software solutions have come a long way and Middleton said cloud-based clinical management solutions like Helix are trying to bridge that gap.

A more cloud-based medical infrastructure can also boost interoperability within healthcare, and enable more timely, patient-centric care.

“The more automated services we put into place, like streamlining bookings, automated reminders, systems that automatically text patients, solutions like HotDoc – all of these can help a lot,” she said. “We need to digitise our records more and think about increasing our interoperability between healthcare professionals and institutions.”

Moving forward, cloud computing is playing an increasingly critical role in transforming healthcare’s digital ecosystem and the benefits for GPs are becoming more evident than ever before.

A recent report, Healthcare Cloud Computing: Global Markets to 2022, predicts the global market for healthcare cloud computing will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.6 per cent from 2017 through 2022, to reach $35 billion by 2022. This exponential growth is linked to cloud-based solutions allowing GPs faster access to information from anywhere and any device while offering better diagnostic quality and instant online access to patient images and reports.

As healthcare providers look to maximise efficiency and meet the demands of value-based care, the cloud will continue to ease many of the historic frustrations GPs currently experience. With the benefits of improved security and interoperability, cloud enables considerable opportunities for cross-platform integration, as well as leveraging deeper data and insights to enable more efficient and accurate delivery of care in real-time.
 

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