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Dr Charlotte Hespe
18 June 2018

By Dr Charlotte Hespe

A GP’s role is increasingly that of a navigator who assists patients to receive the best care possible at all times for their circumstances and according to their choice.

My Health Record is emerging as a fabulous tool to assist us in ensuring our patients have safer, more appropriate healthcare when navigating across the silos of our healthcare system. This is done through the provision of an up-to-date health summary of all their current (and past) medical conditions of note and current medications and allergies in an accessible format.

The capabilities on My Health Record that I find most useful are:

  • timely access to discharge summaries from hospitals around Australia (and not just my own local health district ), and
  • the ability to do a medication reconciliation through viewing the dispensed medications form.

For example, I have a patient who has been seeing several specialists to assist with multiple health conditions. She came to see me and reported that several of her medications had been altered. I had not received any letters from the specialists and she could not remember what had changed. We were able to look at the recent dispensed medications to find both the new medication and the new dose of an ongoing medication. Great detective work via My Health Record!

My practice is actively uploading up-to-date shared health summaries for all our patients over the age of 75 (with their consent), and for any of our complex multi-morbidity patient population, which means we are talking about the potential for its use more and more.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 2016 Australia's Health report, 30% of problems managed in general practice in 2014-15 were related to chronic disease.

Uploading health summaries is an excellent trigger to updating and tidying up our medical records.

The more you do, the easier it gets, and the more useful it will be to the patient when seeking healthcare outside the practice.

However, currently there are still too few specialists and hospitals uploading documents.

As more documentation is uploaded with more capacity for a wider breadth of documents to be accessible, the capacity to improve patient care will also significantly increase.

Until we get a critical mass of uploaded medical health summaries, My Health Record will remain poorly utilised by our health care system.

By the end of 2018, every individual with a Medicare or Department of Veterans Affairs’ card will have a My Health Record, unless they indicate they do not want one.

Once almost everyone has one, and expects to have an up-to-date shared health summary, a culture of sharing and usage will develop that will drive better utilisation, better quality summaries and better health outcomes for our patients resulting from the ability to access this information when it matters most.

My dream is that eventually we can access links to all the relevant documentation about patient healthcare that has been generated outside of their “patient-centred medical home” to start to assist in the delivery of a more integrated, safe healthcare service.

Dr Charlotte Hespe, RACGP Vice President, has owned a general practice in inner Sydney for the past 20 years. She is also a GP Supervisor and her practice is a fully accredited teaching practice for medical students and GP Registrars. Dr Hespe also works as Associate Professor, Head of General Practice and GP Research for The University of Notre Dame, Australia, School of Medicine in Darlinghurst, Sydney. Charlotte is also a Clinical Reference Lead with the Australian Digital Health Agency.