GPs will be actively involved in the delivery of the Federal Government’s My Health Record, with a new partnership designed to train doctors in the use of the national online health information repository and prepare them to answer patients’ questions.
The partnership between the Royal Australasian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Digital Health Agency announced today will see the GPs provided with an education and awareness program consisting of workshops and webinars tailored to a general practice audience.
The RACGP will develop the training for its more than 38,000 members to support the national expansion of MHR later this year. GPs will be prepared for an anticipated increase in questions from patients about the purpose of MHR and its use by healthcare providers. The program will also allow them to make informed decisions about their own uptake of the system.
An Australian Digital Health Agency spokesperson said the RACGP’s efforts will be similar to the awareness and training program implemented by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia for its members, including the My Health Record Guidelines for Pharmacists.
The education modules will include advice on integrated GP practice systems, cybersecurity protections and how MHR can be best used to improve patient care.
A My Health Record will be created for each Australians by the end of 2018 unless they choose not to have one. About 5.7 million Australians currently have a MHR, and 6346 general practices, 1615 retail pharmacists and 985 hospitals are connected to the system.
The RACGP said it would be “actively involved in the delivery” of MHR to GPs.
“Most Australians are digitally connected and make everyday use of digital services across a range of industries, so it makes sense that both healthcare providers and their patients have access to digital health services,” RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said.
“A My Health Record can play an important role in optimising access to the information required to facilitate patient care. As such, the RACGP aims to support GPs to prepare for the My Health Record opt-out process and make informed decisions about the use of the My Health Record in their practice.”
But in its Pre-Budget Submission 2018-19 issued in December, the Australian Medical Association said that while the MHR has the potential to save lives and deliver economic benefits, the system needs improvements and doctors don’t have time to talk patients through the opt-out process.
The AMA submission claimed “more work is required” to minimise the burden on doctors and warned usability problems could discourage doctors from embracing the technology.
“Problems uploading specialists’ letters, poor search functionality, time-consuming adaptations to existing medical practitioner work practices, or inappropriate workarounds will erode clinical utility and deter doctor use – and, more importantly, take time away from focusing on the patient.”
The AMA voiced its concerns that doctors would be responsible for informing patients about MHR and said the public communication campaign surrounding the uptake of the major health infrastructure project was for the government to conduct.
“Doctors do not have time to talk their patients through the My Health Record arrangements for opt-out, privacy, setting access controls in standing consent for health providers to upload health information. This is the work of the government. Doctors must be allowed to focus on what they do best – caring for patients,” the submission said.
In its announcement today, the RACGP said its professional development program will support GPs to play a crucial role in the national adoption of the system.
“It is vital Australian GPs are informed as to how the My Health Record can help improve patient care and the crucial role they can play,” Seidel said.