There’s a Dutch theory called ‘De wet van de remmende voorsprong’ which, according to Wikipedia, translates as ‘The law of the handicap of a head start’. The theory suggests that an initial head start by an individual, group or company often results in stagnation due to lack of competition or growth stimuli. This may eventually lead to losing pole position.
General practice was one of the first fully digitalised, more or less paperless, medical disciplines in Australia. The question is, are GP software packages keeping up with the times or is the profession at risk of falling behind and being overtaking by others?
Overall I am satisfied with the desktop software I use to look after my patients. It does the basics very well such as recording patient demographics and medical history, medication management, printing scripts and investigation referrals.
It also checks if medications agree with each other and if the patient happens to be allergic to a new pill I am about to prescribe.
But compared to, let’s say, ten years ago there haven’t been any breakthrough innovations. Sure, we can now check the national My Health Record and upload a shared health summary, but there’s also a lot to wish for.
We’re still relying on the good old fax machine and over the years I have seen more and more third-party software solutions appear on our system to perform tasks the desktop software can’t. Occasionally these packages clash with each other or slow the practice system down.
The wish list
Here’s a list of 7 basic things that should be included in all GP desktop software. I believe it would improve patient care and satisfaction.
I’d love to have the option to communicate securely with patients and other providers, asynchronously or via video link.
Our patients should be able to send digital health data or electronic script requests via a secure connection.
An online appointments booking system.
GPs should be able to send scripts electronically to the pharmacy.
It would be really nice if the software would help us to write (and send) smart electronic referrals by automatically inserting the data required by the specialty or provider we are referring our patients to.