Further primary care software integration with NCSR

Morgan Liotta

15/12/2021 4:11:38 PM

A third provider has integrated with the National Cancer Screening Register to boost participation in under-screened communities.

A couple using a laptop.
GPs are a vital link to boosting cancer screening participation, particularly for under-screened populations.

In September this year, MedicalDirector became the second clinical software provider to integrate with the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR), following Best Practice’s integration and the Healthcare Provider Portal launch earlier this year.
The integration of the software supports the life-saving bowel and cervical cancer screening programs, with the benefits of early detection of cancer through regular screening well-known in contributing to higher survival rates of bowel cancer, cervical cancer and breast cancer.
But improvement in participation rates is still needed, particularly following a COVID-driven decline in participation.
One population recognised as under-screened is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Participation in bowel and cervical screening for this population sits at a lower rate than non-Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also have a higher rate of cancer diagnosis and are around 40% more likely to die from cancer than non-Indigenous Australians.
It is hoped that Communicare becoming the third software vendor to link with the NCSR will better support healthcare providers by simplifying the process of requesting patient information for screening, as well as improve participation rates, particularly those in under-screened communities across Australia.
RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical advisor Dr Tim Senior told newsGP there are a number of factors contributing to under-screening among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
‘Some are very practical, such as availability of services in the local area, or availability of transport,’ he said.
‘For some people, cost of attendance, or even worry about cost, may be an issue. Often for people with other problems going on, there’s a lack of urgency about looking for problems well before they become a problem.
‘However, the biggest issue is cultural safety of services. So many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had bad experiences in the health system, that risking the experience of a lack of cultural safety when there are no symptoms is enough to keep people away.’ 
There is clear evidence that screening rates are improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when they have a direct recommendation from a trusted professional, such as their GP.
Given GPs are ‘highly trusted’ by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, Dr Senior said just initialising a conversation about screening will increase uptake.
‘Understanding what people’s anxieties or practical barriers to screening might be means we can find ways of solving these problems,’ he said.
‘It’s also important to understand that many people who have other complex comorbidities often miss out on screening and other preventive activities, just because there is already so much to do in a consultation.
‘Being aware of this – and making time to have these conversations – can really benefit someone’s health.’
According to Communicare, enabling healthcare providers to access their patients’ screening status or order National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) directly from their integrated desktop software is of ‘particular importance’ for under-screened populations.
The integration with the NCSR will now enable more streamlined functionality for GPs and other healthcare providers to submit their patients’ bowel and cervical screening data directly from within a patient record.
In collaboration with rural and remote health services in Australia, including over 50% of Aboriginal Medical Services, Communicare holds more than 3.5 million medical records and is used by more than 8000 healthcare providers nationwide.
Practices using Communicare Version 21.3 will be able to configure fields specific to supporting healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and record patient information by enabling unified service integration to consolidate reporting and decision making.
The integration will also allow healthcare providers to:

  • more quickly access a patient’s screening results and histories for cervical and bowel screening
  • manage a patient’s participation in the screening programs
  • request bowel program test kits for eligible participants
  • receive notifications of overdue actions
  • digitally create and send program forms, reducing manual handling
  • view a patient’s program correspondence.
Acknowledging that Communicare is the clinical software widely used in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, Dr Senior notes the importance of the recent integration.
‘This means that many of the services that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prefer to attend will be able to access screening information much more easily, within the clinical software, making tailored recommendations, including as part of a health assessment, much more streamlined,’ he said.
‘This is just one small part of increasing participation rates, but it makes information specific to that patient more readily available in the consultation when it is needed.’
More information on enabling the integration is available at the Communicare Knowledge Centre.
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