A trickle effect: General practice data leaks

Edwin Kruys

1/12/2017 2:11:49 PM

Australian general practice is about to lose control over its data, Dr Edwin Kruys writes for newsGP.

General practice data can inform positive actions such as research, benchmarking and quality improvement.
General practice data can inform positive actions such as research, benchmarking and quality improvement.

General practice has been sitting on a goldmine of digital data, locked away on hard drives in our practices all over the country. And while we were busy looking after our patients, others have quietly started mining it for us.
While the monetary value of general practice data remains debatable, there are other good things we can do with it, such as research, benchmarking and quality improvement. Of course, there are also a lot of bad things that can happen when our data is used in the wrong way or for the wrong purposes.

For example, health administrators around the world have been looking for ways to improve quality of care by combining data analysis, performance of healthcare providers and financial incentives.
A recent study published recently in the British Journal of General Practice, ‘Effectiveness of UK provider financial incentives on quality of care: a systematic review’, found that financial incentives may be counterproductive to their goal of improving healthcare quality and efficiency and, if used, should be subject to careful long-term monitoring and evaluation.
As we speak, general practice data is flowing from our practices to various third parties, including Primary Health Networks, My Health Record, NPS MedicineWise and FredIT, owned by the Pharmacy Guild.
Interestingly, data governance contracts are often light-on, non-existent or allow others to use the data as they see fit. At the same time, our only continuous national source of general practice data, the BEACH study, has had to shut down as it no longer receives government funding.
The common denominator here is that general practice is about to lose control over its data.
Clearly, there is a hole in our bucket that needs to be fixed. If not, I’m afraid Australian general practice will be unable to stand on its own two legs in the not-too-distant future.

BEACH-study general-practice-data

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Elly Slootmans   5/12/2017 12:43:42 PM

Keep writing Edwin and keep doing the good work you do!!

Philip Dawson   5/12/2017 1:41:47 PM

You didn't mention medicare and the PBS both of which have lots of data. My Health Record only gets summaries, and the same prescription data the HIC already gets; no referral letters going that way yet, and pathology and radiology haven't yet started sharing results that way. The one that concerns me is insurance companies/lawyers. One in particular sends an electronic request, not for a report, but for its miner to extract and send the entire patients record. I wrote a letter to a lawyer requesting the entire patient record saying I did not believe this was truly informed consent, and I wouldn't send anything unless he got a new consent explicitly stating either he only wanted what was relevant to the case, or if he wanted the entire record that the patient was fully informed. I didn't hear back and sent nothing. he had a failed fishing expedition.

Sceptic   2/05/2018 6:08:22 AM

Dr Kruys in your judgement is it possible to revive BEACH study that can be funded through an alternative source?

Edwin Kruys   3/05/2018 11:26:49 AM

Thanks for your question, Sceptic. No, I think BEACH can't be revived, but a data collection (like BEACH) would be quite possible with funding. It is my understanding that members have approached RACGP with this suggestion.


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