South Australian practice leads the way in eHealth records

South Australian practice manager Dr Sim Hee Neoh is leading the way towards the future of eHealth, registering more patients to the personally controlled electronic health (eHealth) record system than any other general practice in the country.

"From the first time we heard about the potential for eHealth we decided it was in our patients' best interests and we had to get them involved."

We owe it to our patients to keep their records accurate and accessible and this is the best way we can do it," Dr Neoh said.

Dr Neoh and his team run the Westlands Surgery in Whyalla Playford at Eyre Peninsula. At last count they uploaded more than 350 shared health summaries into eHealth record system, and Dr Neoh said he is determined to add every single one of their patients to this growing list.

He's proud that they have achieved the record for the number of sign-ups so far – a major feat for a modest family practice established over 50 years ago.

"It does take time because the eHealth record system has to be explained to the patient, and our own records need to be checked for accuracy," Dr Neoh said.

"We explain the benefits of having an eHealth record such as not needing to remember health events and prescriptions and our patients have embraced it.

"The sign up process takes 15 minutes and that covers our preparation time. It's been quicker and easier than we'd expected," Dr Neoh said.

An eHealth record is an electronic summary of a patient's key health information, drawn from their existing records that will give healthcare professionals access to patient information such as medications, test results, discharge summaries, allergies and immunisations.

The eHealth record system is designed to be integrated into existing local clinical information systems and will provide faster and easier access to patients' health information, meaning better, more efficient care.
An eHealth record can contain two sets of information – clinical and personal. Only authorised healthcare professionals can enter information into the clinical section of a patient's eHealth record, ensuring it is clinically relevant and as accurate as possible.

Patients will have their own section in the eHealth record, separate from the clinical section, where they will be able to enter basic health information,  and keep notes for their own use.

Medicare data, including MBS, PBS, Australian Organ Donor Register and Australian Childhood Immunisation Register data, has also been incorporated in the eHealth record system for those people who want such information to be part of their record and can be viewed by healthcare professionals.

"We participated in the first wave of eCollabaratives where we uploaded shared health summaries to the eHealth record system. The program was advantageous too as many of our records got into great shape. "

eCollabaratives is a pilot program that led a small number of early adopter practices on a rapid change and adoption path through the new eHealth record system. These pilot programs provided valuable learnings and guidance for the design and development of the national eHealth record system.

The program registered 929 patients, created 650 shared health summaries and generated 519 views of those summaries by patients. Westlands was one of two practices responsible for a large proportion of the shared health summaries achieved by the program.

"Tidying up our patient records during the eCollabaratives program has made the transition to the eHealth record system so much easier for our patients and for the practice," Dr Neoh said.

"We did have to explain to our patients that they would have to sign up again, but we'd register our patients during consultations, care plan preparations, while the patients were waiting in the nurse's room or at reception.

"We initially targeted patients with chronic diseases and care plans, followed by the over-50s and then families," he said.

"And, we've only had five people refuse to opt-in.

"We're now encouraging patients to register at the local Medicare office, and for those who aren't computer literate, we register them at the practice. They trust us," Dr Neoh said.

We owe it to our patients to keep their records accurate and accessible and this is the best way we can do it," Dr Neoh said.

Assisted Registration allows you to help patients register for an eHealth record in five simple steps.

  1. Your patient reads the essential information and completes and signs the one page application form.

  2. Your authorised employee asserts the identity of the patient as a known customer of the healthcare provider organisation, or through a 100 point documentary identity check.

  3. Your authorised employee uses the Assisted Registration Tool to enter and submit the patient's details to the eHealth record System Operator.

  4. The System Operator will send you the outcome of the application: successful or unsuccessful.

For successful applications the System Operator will also send an Identity Verification Code (IVC) to either the patient (via SMS or email), or to your authorised employee (if you have allowed this option). Patients need an IVC to access their eHealth record online for the first time.

  1. Once a patient is successfully registered, authorised users in your healthcare organisation can begin to upload clinical information to that patient's eHealth record.