Abandon the idea of continuous GP care and throw away your fax machine - a new Microsoft report has told Australian healthcare it needs to undergo a dramatic change in mindset and get with the digital revolution.

Embracing the Change Mandate: The 2020 Digital Transformation Agenda for Australia’s Health Care Sector gathered input from a number of Australian experts, with GP and president of the Australasian College of Health Informatics Dr Chris Pearce claiming we are on the verge of the most significant shift in how healthcare is delivered since the scientific method arrived.

The ‘GP for 30 years’ care delivery model will disappear, according to Pearce, with patients already seeking primary care from five different clinics and 11 doctors in their lifetime.

“One of the cornerstones for general practice has always been this concept of continuity of care. But the reality for a large percentage of the population is that they are usually young, relatively fit people and there is no need for continuity of care – a vaccination here, a sore knee there – and that’s fine,” Pearce told Healthcare IT News Australia.

“I’ve always had a sense that people are more attached to their medical information than they are a specific GP. We've got to design a system that reflects that reality well.”

In collaboration with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, Microsoft’s report studied how a digitally augmented system could improve Australian healthcare and barriers to change.

People’s records can’t be locked up anymore and, despite their resistance to change, doctors simply have to adapt – even if that means updating to post-90s technology, Pearce said.

“I still struggle with the fact that we still use faxes. I haven't faxed my accountant, my bank for a very long time, but I still use fax in my day-to-day clinical environment, and that’s just nonsense,” Pearce said.

“Years ago when I was practicing somewhere else there was an obstetrician in the nearby town who was also a ‘C. Pearce’. So at my practice we were always getting faxes about patients we’d never seen. This is one of the things that has frustrated me over the years.”

According to the report, precision dosing could lower the 223,000 hospital admissions linked to adverse drug events each year, which cost the nation $1.2 billion. Clinical data exchanges between primary and secondary carers could also reduce the 14 per cent of unnecessary pathology tests ordered.

Add in drones, AI, telehealth and other tech developments and a person in a remote area will be able to receive better care than a homeless person in the middle of a city, Pearce said.

“It's no longer about geographic isolation, it’s information isolation.”

To help along progress, the Australasian College of Health Informatics has launched its fellowship program, comprising a three-year full-time health informatics doctorate, one year of paid work experience, and supplementary learning (with a part-time equivalent). The first program of its kind in Australasia, it will lead to the peak qualification in the field.  

“This fellowship is about training the next generation of leaders of the profession. We're talking about people who will lead projects, who will be chief medical information officers,” Pearce said.

“At the moment that responsibility is being taken on by people who are learning on the job. They are people who translate from either a clinical or a technical role and they have to learn a whole lot of new sets of skills on the go. They make a lot of mistakes on the way.”

The fellowships will lead to advanced abilities in managing large projects, understanding leadership and implementing change management. There is no closing date for applications and the intake is twice a year.

For Pearce, the fellowships will train the people who will go on create a new form of healthcare during a time of rapid change.

“It's just the beginning and it's going to get very interesting very soon.”




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