GPs waste too much time on bureaucratic red tape using non-standardised templates and outdated data-sharing that should be spent on patient care.
Improving collaboration between general practices, other specialists and hospitals would streamline the health system and improve patient outcomes, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) said.
RACGP president Nicole Higgins said patients, GPs and the health system would benefit from cutting red tape.
In its submission to the mid-term review of the National Health Reform Agreement, the RACGP called for a more efficient system for GP referral requirements.
“These changes would streamline the whole system,” Dr Higgins said.
“GPs should be spending time with their patients, not on navigating long forms and frustrating processes that can be unique to each hospital.”
She said improved data-sharing between hospitals and primary care to identify at-risk patients could reduce low-value care and meet community needs.
“Standardised digital forms that allow a GP to provide details of their patient and that patient’s case to a hospital will help ensure GPs are able to move quickly to get patients the care they need,” Dr Higgins said.
She said digital systems that integrate with practice management could improve patient outcomes by streamlining the hospital discharge process for patients, GPs and hospitals, and help to future-proof the system.
Dr Higgins said standardised, secure digital systems for data sharing, referral and discharge between general practices and hospitals could also improve patient outcomes.
“The data shows that where patients who are discharged from hospital emergency departments receive appropriate follow-up care from their GP, they are significantly less likely to end up back in hospital and more likely to have a positive outcome,” she said.
Ballina East GP Dr Christopher Mitchell said the practice takes him away from patient care.
“Even when there is a single template approved, some clinics create a new front sheet requirement that must be filled in, and again it’s sent to us as a PDF,” he said.
“We already have HealthLink templates established that can autofill, so the solution is pretty simple.
“While the implementation does generate some costs, the current process costs too. It costs us time.”
WA-based GP Olga Ward said hospital-specific templates could be clunky, full of boxes to tick, and wasteful of GPs’ time.
“I’m starting to want the Danish system where all the health software across all systems has to, by law, be compatible, communicate and contain all the information readily available,” she said.
“Imagine how many tests would not have to be endlessly repeated if you could see it all there at once and look up what has gone before.”
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