Digital Health

Digital health technologies are transforming the world of healthcare.

Practice Assist can provide advice and assistance to general practices seeking to embrace digital technologies to support the delivery of quality primary health care.

Digital health frequently asked questions

What is digital health?

Digital health refers not only to how a patient's information is gathered, stored, and accessed, but also relates to the use of highly advanced and specialised tools for procedures, interactions between providers, and the mediums and infrastructure to deliver patient-centred care.

What is telehealth? Is it different to video-conferencing?


Telehealth refers to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to deliver health services and transmit health information over both long and short distances. It is about transmitting voice, data, images and information rather than moving care recipients, health professionals or educators (International Organisation for Standardisation).

Any aspect of the health service continuum, including diagnosis, treatment, education and curative services, can be provided via telehealth.

On the other hand, video-conferencing refers to the transmission of real-time (live) audio-visual data via the internet. It is the medium most progressed for the provision of telehealth, and in particular for outpatient services, tele-psychiatry and patient and health professional education. As such, the term telehealth is often used interchangeably with video-conferencing or video-consultations.

 

What is My Health Record?


My Health Record is a national platform for the sharing of patient health information that can be accessed anywhere and at anytime. Most Australians (9 out of 10) have a My Health Record.

Through the My Health Record system, healthcare providers will access timely information about their patients such as shared health summaries, discharge summaries, prescription and dispense records, pathology reports, and diagnostic imaging reports.
 

How is data used by WAPHA in general practice activities?


General practices and general practitioners that analyse and act on their patient data can have a greater insight into the needs of their patients, and are better positioned to provide the care that patients need, when they need it. Accurate patient data can highlight the most prevalent conditions, medications or social groups, and can help determine what conditions need to be prioritised.

WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) provides licenses for the CAT Plus suite of data tools at no cost to general practices across Western Australia under a data sharing agreement.

Sharing your de-identified patient data with WAPHA allows us to provide your practice with access to quality data extraction and analysis that can assist you with accurately recording patient information and better understanding your patient population. It also helps WAPHA to commission the right kind of services where they are needed the most, to support you and your patients. 

Data is also used for the purpose of the Practice Incentives Program Quality Improvement Incentive. Please see the relevant page for more information.

 

What do I need to tell my patients about data sharing?


The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) provides guidance to general practices about the secondary uses of de-identified patient data in its guide Secondary use of general practice data. Secondary uses may include quality and safety measurement, provider certification or accreditation and marketing.

According to the Standards for general practices 5th edition, Criterion C3.6, practices must obtain consent from patients when their identified health information is to be transferred to a third party (this would be for the purpose of quality improvement or professional development activities). While the Standards mandates the process of consent for the transfer of identified patient health information, the RACGP's Secondary use of general practice data guide recommends practices inform patients of any activity in which patient data, including that which is de-identified, is being used for secondary purposes outside of the practice. 

At the forefront of practice decision-making around data sharing should be the protection of your patients' rights and privacy. Your practice should display information in its waiting room, on its website, and / or in its practice information sheet to advise patients that their health information may be de-identified and used for a secondary purpose. Your policy on the management of health information should also describe your practice's approach to data sharing, and advise patients of their rights and responsibilities in such a way as to encourage them to participate in the management of their information, and understand the benefits (rather than only the risks).

The RACGP guide Privacy and managing health information in general practice advises that practices can, in certain circumstances, choose to use health information for a secondary purpose if the patient consents, or the patient would reasonably expect such use or disclosure, which is directly related to their healthcare. Where there is doubt as to whether or not the patient would consent, the consent should be sought, and "reasonable expectations" should be considered from the perspective of an average patient with no particular medical knowledge.

 

What do I need to know about privacy and My Health Record?

A My Health Record is an online summary of an individual’s health information. For this reason, it is important that this information is kept safe and secure. There is special legislation that limits when and how the information included in a My Health Record can be collected, used and disclosed.
 
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner provides the following information:

Where can I get further training on My Health Record?


The Australian Digital health Agency offers a range of training for health professionals to support the use of My Health Record. Visit the ADHA website for online webinars, e-learning modules, factsheets and guides.
 

What financial incentives are available to support my practice to use digital health?


There are two Practice Incentive Program (PIP) payments available that support the use of digital health:
  1. Participate in continuous quality improvement
  2. Provide the PIP Eligible Data Set to its local PHN
Visit our PIP & PIP QI page or speak to our Practice Support Staff for more information.

There may be other financial supports for which your practice is eligible.
 

How can WAPHA help?


To support better access to primary health care services for people living in WA, WAPHA supports and funds a range of digital health activities. These activities include:
  • WAPHA administers HealthPathways WA, a free to access, web-based portal that contains clinical pathways, which provide clear and concise guidance for assessing, managing and referring patients across Western Australia.
  • WAPHA funds the Practitioner Online Referral Treatment Service (PORTS), a virtual mental health service for people with symptoms of low mood, depression, stress, anxiety, or substance use problems.
  • WAPHA works with the WA Country Health Service to deliver a tele-geriatric program for people living in Esperance, connecting older people with a gerontologist via videoconference
  • WAPHA supports general practices with using data to understand the patient population and undertake quality improvement. WAPHA offers the CAT Plus suite of data extraction tools to practices free of charge under our Data Sharing Arrangement. Contact our Practice Support Staff for more information about data sharing.  

Where can I find resources for telehealth?

Where can I find resources for My Health Record?

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and recognises the significant importance of their cultural heritage, values and beliefs and how these
contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of the whole community.