How to future-proof your Practice

Sunshine Coast Practice Manager Felicity Hogan says she's no stranger to change.

"In fact I'm proud to be a change driver," she says. "But I came from the pharma industry where you learn if you don't change and keep up to date your customers will educate you by walking out the door."

Ms Hogan is manager of a large coastal practice with seven doctors at Cooloola Coast Clinic and another at the seasonal Rainbow Beach Medical Practice.

She said 18 months ago she saw an opportunity to take the business into digital health and has never looked back. "When I started my role here I did some research and found we had signed up, but done little with it. I spoke to our Medicare Local and had discussions with the doctors and decided to get everyone using it," she said.

"We have more than 34,000 records on our clinical system of which 5,000 are active at any one time which makes record-keeping more manageable as patients pass through," she said. Of these, 1,000 have shared My Health Records.

She admits she had her hands full leading the charge into digital health - but the effort was worth it to future-proof the business.

"I'm all about the business, and there are clearly business benefits.

"Patients get better service, there is more information to hand, more accuracy and it saves time.

"Some medical centres take things for granted and just keep doing the same old, same old and they think they will always just get patients in the door.

"But you aren't maximising benefits for patients and eventually they are going to leave for a better practice," Ms Hogan said.

"A lot of retirees who are on the move come to us here at Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach and we always try to make sure they get their own health record online before they take off again.

"People always come in and say they didn't bring their tablets and when you ask them what tablets, they just take a guess.

"And obviously they have come here and they have been to various other medical centres on their travels too so it gets frustrating for them," she said.

"We had a gentleman here the other day who has been a patient for many years and he said ‘goodbye I'm off to retire and travel around Australia and can you print off my whole medical record, so I can carry it around with me?'

"And I said yes that is an option - we could do that - or I could just sign you up for a My Health Record and you don't have to carry anything because it's all stored electronically."

"This year we are targeting chronic disease patients who are frequent visitors and will benefit the most from having an eHealth record."

She said like in every business, the customer's needs have to come first.

"We have always made sure the doctor and patient are together to upload to the My Health Record and then everyone knows what is going on to the file.

"We think it's very beneficial for the doctor to explain the idea to the patient because there are so many misconceptions about where data is stored and who is accessing it and it is really important that the information comes from their doctor who they respect and trust," she said.

Ms Hogan said her experience demonstrated Practice Managers could play a large role integrating digital health tools into the business: "You have to be pro-active. It's important for the practice manager to champion it, to talk to the doctors and sell them the benefits."

"There's plenty of help out there, no one has to do it alone."

HOW TO BE AN DIGITAL HEALTH CHANGE AGENT

  1. Be a champion and sell the patient benefits to the whole team
  2. Choose your targets wisely and build from there. Cooloola focused first on their obvious market of travelling seniors.
  3. Do some marketing in the clinic. Cooloola will soon have the My Health Record application printed on the back of all new patient forms,
  4. Seek help from your professional body. "The AAPM can put you in touch with more help and they also have free online training," Felicity Hogan says.

Felicity Hogan

Need help with implementing digital health and the My Health Record system in your practice? Call Customer Care on 1300 901 001 or email [email protected]