Test results from 95% of public pathology labs now online

Matt Woodley

15/05/2020 4:31:08 PM

But what about private pathology?

Person looking at their My Health record.
Engaging private pathology to upload test results to My Health Record should be a priority for general practice.

The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has announced all public pathology laboratories in New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia are now connected to the My Health Record system.
Work is also progressing to complete connections in the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, with the latest lab to connect, Northern Pathology Victoria, the first new public pathology service to be established in the state in more than 30 years.
There are significant advantages in having pathology results stored within My Health Record, according to Northern Pathology Victoria Director Dr Prahlad Ho.
‘You can share results both with your GP or hospital-based healthcare professionals,’ he said.
‘Accessing your results immediately in the convenient My Health Record platform will give clinicians a fuller picture of the patient’s medical history, aiding quicker diagnosis and treatment.’
However, Dr Nathan Pinskier, GP and member of the RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management (REC–PTM), told newsGP that while it is valuable to have a system that can upload pathology results to a patient’s My Health Record, engaging private pathology to adopt similar practices should be the priority for general practice.
‘The real benefit will come when all private labs are uploading to My Health Record, as it will make it easier for a treating clinician to be able to seamlessly access results from a lab that they may not have a relationship with,’ he said.
‘As part of the transition process to electronic uploads to My Health Record, private pathology labs requested that an e-order system be implemented. That’s all available now, but very, very few labs have implemented e-ordering.’
Dr Pinskier’s clinic was the first in Victoria to establish such a system with its private pathology provider – and he said in practice it is not different to e-prescribing.
‘Most of the difficult technical work has been done,’ he said.
‘It’s really now a question of practices ringing up their provider saying, “I would like my patients’ pathology results to go to My Health Record”, and that means setting up e-orders.
‘If the patient has a My Health Record, the request goes straight to the laboratory as an e-order so when the patient turns up to the collecting centre, they can pull down from the barcode, the test is validated, and it doesn’t have to be re-transcribed.
‘The healthcare identifiers are already there so that it’s all been validated, and it makes it easy for them to upload to My Health Record. But if they have to go and chase all that information and enter it at source, there’s a risk they won’t do it, and if they do they may get it wrong due to transcription error.’

nathan-heroV2.jpgDr Nathan Pinskier believes there are a number of benefits to having pathology results available on a patient's My Health Record.
ADHA interim CEO Bettina McMahon has said now that the vast majority of public pathology is connected to My Health Record, the focus has shifted to supporting the remaining private sector laboratories to connect.
‘Australians are more engaged in managing their health than ever before,’ she said. ‘More patients are using My Health Record to see their pathology results, with 140,000 people doing so in March. That’s a 76% increase from February.’
More than 3.8 million pathology reports were uploaded in March, an 11% increase on the number of February uploads, and there are now 43 million pathology reports that have been uploaded to My Health Record.
According to Dr Pinskier, while some clinics may think there is limited benefit in engaging with private pathology to upload all results to My Health Record because most regular patients stay within the ‘care loop’ (ie the same pathology provider for every test), it can prove invaluable in different circumstances.
‘When you see itinerant patients who are seeing itinerant providers, or if a new patient comes to you from somewhere else, that’s where it plays a role,’ he said.
‘Or if even if your regular patient goes somewhere else – maybe they’re on holidays or maybe they’re a fly-in-fly-out worker – and has a test done by another doctor and you can’t get the result because you’re not connected to the other lab’s system.
‘That is when there is clear use – it might be once a day, or even twice a week, but instead of having to ring around labs, you can just log on and pull the result.’
Dr Pinskier said one of the reasons more private pathology labs have not connected could be a lack of awareness regarding how easy it is.
‘Some of the some of the labs have maybe seen it as an additional impost, which is fair enough,’ he said. ‘But now that a lot of it is being streamlined, I don’t believe there is any additional work.
‘In fact, it’s much easier for the lab to send the results to My Health Record, which is essentially a carbon copy, and no different to whether they send it to “Dr ABCD” later or to My Health Record – once it’s in the system it just goes.’
Aside from aiding GPs, Dr Pinskier said not having COVID-19 pathology results uploaded to My Health Record is a ‘missed opportunity’.
‘It is probably the single biggest test being done in the country on any given date at the moment, certainly in the largest group,’ he said.
‘[But] we’re not doing it electronically and sending it to My Health Record. If we had, we would have had a national database by now to be able to use for secondary purposes at some point.
‘We’ve invested so much in My Health Record and it certainly needs a lot more work to make it useful long term, but this was a missed opportunity.’
A full list of the pathology providers currently uploading to My Health Record is available here.
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