As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Australia, an increasing number of general practices across the country are embracing and delivering virtual healthcare.
To help general practices in Western Australia enhance their digital capability, WA Primary Health Allicance (WAPHA) recently offered GP Innovation Grants of up to $1,500 per practice for the purchase of information technology (IT) equipment to participate in virtual programs, such as telehealth video consultations, online meetings, webinars and more.
The response from general practices throughout the State was very receptive and positive. After submitting their online applications in April this year, 235 general practices have taken advantage of WAPHA’s GP Innovation Grants.
The team at Albany Medical Centre used the grant to purchase a new laptop for their patients to access telehealth appointments.
Albany Medical Centre, Western Australia
Practice Manager, Carolyn Aggiss, explained, “We have had increasing demand from patients and their specialists for telehealth consultations to be held at our surgery, allowing the patient’s GP and/or our practice nurse to participate in the consultation. Not only does this deliver potentially better outcomes for the patient, it also provides an opportunity for our staff to engage and form relationships with participating specialists.”
“The portability of the laptop gives us flexibility in the spaces we have available for use on any given day, giving us the freedom to offer appointments throughout the week. The telehealth appointments are delivered over a couple of platforms and we are finding the camera, sound and processing speed allows for a seamless consultation,” Carolyn Aggiss added.
Livingston Medical’s Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe Medical Centres also used WAPHA’s GP Innovation Grants to enhance their digital capability.
Business Director, Rachel Livingston, said, “Due to our increase in laptops, we are now able to offer outreach services to Varley and the Shire of Jerramungup who haven’t had service for a long time. Patients are delighted in the outreach clinics and the ability to inform the doctor of some history before their appointment. This means more quality time during the consult with the doctor.”
WAPHA’s GP Innovation Grants program is not only helping general practices deliver better connected healthcare to their patients, it is also enabling general practitioners in regional areas to work more efficiently.
“Doctors in the country are extremely time poor due to often being solo practitioners, travelling between various locations, often 100km plus apart, being on-call 24 hours a day and managing a full GP patient list plus an emergency department and surgical list, as well as managing the practice itself. Any technology that can save time and streamline the process for the GP will absolutely make a huge difference to the doctor and their workforce,” Rachel Livingston said.
Livingston Medical has embraced telehealth and introduced procedures that allow farmers, who can’t leave their farm, to access acute and general medical services from the comfort of their header or seeder.
Business Director, Rachel Livingston of Livingston Medical’s Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe Medical Centres
“We can follow up with urgent results using a simple web link and webcam setup. The whole thing is absolutely pivotal to the health of people who live in the bush. COVID-19 has enabled the MBS item numbers, but this has created a true realisation that this technology and these item numbers need to stay. People who live 600km from their nearest city, like we do, need to be able to see a doctor, and these grants have enabled the technology to deliver this vital service. We would absolutely love to be involved in any future technology grants,” Rachel Livingston explained.
The COVID-19 digital certificate issued to people who have had both doses of their vaccine can now be added to Apple Wallet on iOS and Google Pay on Android phones.
Once an individual has received all the required doses, they can add their certificate to their digital wallet via the Express Plus Medicare App or Medicare Online, providing quick and convenient access wherever they are.
Minister for Government Services Linda Reynolds said the capability was made available over the past weekend.
“We know Australians are increasingly using digital wallets so people can choose to store their certificate in this way, if it suits them,” Ms Reynolds said. “It replicates the certificate they’re already able to access through myGov.
“The COVID-19 digital certificate is entirely optional for Australians. We’re giving people control over the level of vaccination history they share, as the standalone certificate only shows COVID-19 vaccination status.”
All staff working in healthcare facilities including general practice are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
These staff members are eligible for walk in appointments at any State-run community vaccination clinic (the full community clinic list is available here). For a confirmed booking time, visit VaccinateWA.
Alternatively, staff can make a priority booking at a GP clinic taking part in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout or a Commonwealth Vaccination Clinic using the Vaccine Eligibility Checker.
WA Primary Health Alliance has produced a proof of employment letter that can be adapted for use on your practice’s letterhead.
Vaccination providers should have completed the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) e-training. This training provides access to anaphylaxis education in Australia, free of charge.
ASCIA has more information on the risks of anaphylaxis when administering the Pfizer (Comirnaty) and AstraZeneca vaccines here.
Links to this training module and the COVID-19 Vaccine Training Program can be found in the HealthPathways COVID-19 Vaccination Information pathway.
The Australian Government Department of Health has information related to observation of patients following the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pregnant women aged 16 years and over are now prioritised and eligible for a Pfizer (Comirnaty) COVID-19 vaccination.
Pregnant women should be offered Pfizer (Comirnaty) at any stage of pregnancy as pregnant women who contract COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness and, a slight increased risk of their baby being born prematurely (1.5 times higher risk) or needing admission to hospital (3 times higher risk).
International data has indicated mRNA vaccines – including Pfizer – are safe to be given at any stage during pregnancy and are also suitable for people who are breastfeeding.
Pregnant women who received their first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can receive a second dose of either COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca or Pfizer (Comirnaty), although Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred. Pregnant women should speak with their health care provider about the best choice for them.
Further information is available in the shared decision making guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy.
Pregnant women can access a Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine or second dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca:
The role of general practice within the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout is set to expand further.
The Australian Government Department of Health is continuing to extend both the Pfizer (Comirnaty) and AstraZeneca rollouts. Additional practices were onboarded on 26 July, and these practices will commence vaccinating in August.
Any non-participating practices interested in joining the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout should email email@example.com.
Practices that are already taking part in the rollout that would like to apply for Pfizer (Comirnaty) should fill out the application form.
Western Australia's vaccine rollout is picking up speed, with bookings reopening for those aged 30 to 39 and 140,000 Pfizer appointments on offer for eligible Western Australians over a two-week vaccination blitz.
The vaccination blitz will run between Monday, 16 August to Sunday 29 August.
Western Australians aged between 30 and 39 who have already registered on http://www.rollupforwa.com.au will be given priority for bookings, and can make an appointment at a State-run clinic from August 3.
All other Western Australians aged 30 to 39 can register for a COVID-19 vaccine now at Roll up for WA. These people will be eligible to make a booking from Monday, August 9.
Read the full media release here.
Updates have occurred in the COVID-19 vaccination training program on Friday 23 July and Friday 30 July. Module progress and completion have not been affected.
Staff at vaccinating clinics are expected to log-in and view the new information. A summary of the updates can be found in the announcement forum. All changes within the modules are identified by 'NEW' in red.
You can log-in to the training modules here.
With many practices now administering COVID-19 vaccinations, please read this timely reminder from the Communicable Disease Control Directorate (CDCD):
All providers are reminded to keep patients under observation in your facility for at least 15 minutes to monitor for adverse effects following immunisation (AEFI). Waiting in an area outside the facility (such as a vehicle) that is not under observation is not suitable.
Consider mapping out post-vaccination patient flow within your facility to meet vaccine safety guidelines. Please ensure:
WA Health provides a range of online immunisation education modules, which are accessible 24/7 and offered free of charge to all immunisation providers. Please visit their Immunisation education page to access these modules.
WA Primary Health Alliance has been advised by the Australian Department of Health that the National Medical Stockpile is a strategic reserve and not a general supplier of personal protective equipment (PPE). The Stockpile is only intended to provide PPE where commercial supply is unavailable and there is a demonstrated need or clinical advice for its use.
We appreciate that some providers have been accessing the Stockpile regularly until now.
Due to the widespread commercial availability of PPE supply, as per Government advice, WA Primary Health Alliance will request a declaration from your organisation as proof it has been unable to source a commercial supply.
WA Primary Health Alliance can only provide PPE where commercial supply is unavailable and requests meet the following criteria:
If you are experiencing difficulties obtaining PPE from a commercial supplier, please email WA Primary Health Alliance via firstname.lastname@example.org addressing the above points.
The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) have developed a new web page to assist immunisation providers with the latest information and key guidance relating to the COVID-19 vaccination program – all in one place.
This page will be regularly updated as new or updated information becomes available.
The web page can be accessed here
Authentication file access to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) is being closed to all provider types on 30 September 2021. More information can be found here.
All providers need to transition to Provider Digital Access (PRODA) to maintain access. With a PRODA account, health professionals can access the AIR using Health Professional Online Services (HPOS). For health professionals who access the AIR as a member of an organisation, you can also find out how to register an organisation in PRODA and link HPOS to your organisation so members can access the AIR.
Further information is available on the Services Australia website: Register for a PRODA account and set up access to HPOS.
The Immunisation Program is experiencing an increased number of queries around the differences between the two available brands of hepatitis B vaccine. Here is some information to provide clarification:
WA Health offers 2 brands of hepatitis B vaccine, Engerix-B and H-B-Vax II, each with adult and paediatric formulations. The brand of hepatitis B vaccine you can order for eligible patients will depend on current stock availability.
Hepatitis B vaccine dose formulation by brand:
Although both paediatric and adult doses are the same volume across both brands, there are differences in the surface antigen content. As can be viewed in the table, Engerix B adult formulation has 20 µg and H-B-Vax II adult formulation has 10 µg. Engerix B paediatric formulation has 10 µg and H-B-Vax II paediatric formulation has 5 µg. Although the 2 brands contain different hepatitis B surface antigen content, they are considered equivalent doses (i.e. 0.5mL injection is given for a paediatric dose irrespective of which product is used, despite the difference in surface antigen).
For eligibility please refer to the WA Immunisation Schedule and for State Programs, see the WA Health Guidelines for Accessing State Funded Vaccines at the WA Health vaccine orders web page. Please be reminded that dialysis patients are not eligible to receive hepatitis B through the government-funded programs.
For dosing information, always refer to the hepatitis B section in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.
General practice health professionals can now order or encourage their patients to order a replacement bowel home test-kit via the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) website. To request a kit you must provide basic demographic details including date of birth, postal address, and Medicare or department of veterans affairs number. This feature can be accessed on the ‘contact us’ page of the website.
Click here to order a kit.
The WA Department of Health has produced a flipchart as a tool to assist in providing information on bowel cancer, bowel cancer screening and having a colonoscopy for all West Australian community members, particularly those eligible to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
General practice health professionals can now order hard copies of these flipcharts via email WACPCN.email@example.com or download an electronic copy visit the webpage https://www.nmhs.health.wa.gov.au/Hospitals-and-Services/Services/WACPCN/Bowel-cancer
WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network Clinical Implementation Unit has produced USBs containing all of the Optimal Care Pathways for ~20 tumour types, tumour specific factsheets, quick reference guides, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific resources and other useful links.
General practice health professionals can now order these USBs via email WACPCN@health.wa.gov.au
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA)and Diabetes WA and are currently seeking General Practitioners and Practice Nurses to participate in a Pilot Study - Conversations about Weight in September.
Conversations about Weight is an online education package that will give you the tools to have difficult conversations around weight management and help you to motivate your patients to engage in weight management activities.
The education package has six core modules, each module takes approximately one to two hours to complete and will contain a range of interactive material, such as:
o weight science,
o how to have sensitive conversations about weight,
o motivational interviewing and
o supporting patients through weight-loss.
Conversations about Weight will commence in mid-September. Each eligible participant will have two week to complete the six modules.
Participants of the pilot will be financially remunerated and eligible for professional development points.
To be involved in the pilot program or for more please contact Project Manager, Kelly Harris by email Kelly.Harris@diabeteswa.com.au or by telephone on (08) 9436 6238.
Since the changes to the CTG PBS Co-payment Program were introduced on 1 July 2021, it has emerged that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were previously receiving benefits via the Program are not actually registered for the Program through Services Australia.
The Commonwealth Department of Health, together with Services Australia, has implemented a grace period from 12 July 2021 to 30 September 2021. The grace period will prevent CTG annotated prescriptions from being rejected at the time of dispensing if the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is not formally registered in the new centralised database.
During the grace period, if a CTG annotated prescription is presented by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person and they are not correctly registered, the pharmacist will receive a warning message through their dispensing system, however, the CTG prescription will still be able to be dispensed [Read more here].
The Australian Government Department of Health has also released communication materials outlining details of reforms to the Closing the Gap (CTG) Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Co‑payment Program.
Four separate fact sheets have been published targeted at the following stakeholder groups:
This year, Daffodil Day will take place on Friday 27 August 2021.
Together, we can all be the power behind the flower that represents hope for the 145,000 Australians diagnosed with cancer every year. Donate, fundraise, share on socials or get involved in your area. Every dollar raised goes towards life-saving cancer research.
Join the thousands of Australians spreading their Flower Power throughout August to fund life-saving cancer research.
Find out more at www.daffodilday.com.au