Located on the New South Wales mid-north coast, midway between Sydney and Brisbane, the coastal village of Scotts Head is a thriving community of more than 1,000 residents and a prime holiday destination, which swells the population during peak periods.
Serving this varied demographic is Scotts Head Medical Practice, led by owner and practice manager Natalie Young.
Like many rural healthcare workers, Natalie is a jack-of-all-trades. As a qualified pharmacist and practice manager, Natalie’s professional qualifications, skills and experience are complementary, and allow her to support both the practice and its patients.
When Natalie established the practice in 2018, the need for a suitable patient management system, preferably cloud-based, was apparent. Natalie chose MedicalDirector’s Helix cloud-based electronic medical record (EMR), which includes integrated telehealth so staff can securely consult patients remotely. This flexibility goes hand in hand with rural general practice needs, ensuring the software can be used anytime from anywhere with an internet connection.
‘We can be 100 per cent more efficient with the time that we’re spending at the practice. We spend less time on the computer, more time with patients, which is how you create really good relationships,’ she said.
Around the world, healthcare providers are adopting cloud-based technology to improve regulatory compliance, help deliver more efficient health care and improve patient outcomes.
Natalie says the flexibility that comes with a cloud-based EMR has helped Scotts Head Medical Practice to attract both administration and general practice staff from other locations where workplaces aren’t able to offer the same level of workplace flexibility, due to server-based systems or difficult networks.
‘With GPs in rural areas often choosing to work after hours, they can operate remotely and autonomously using ePrescriptions, accessing and updating patient notes and doing billing using a simple and secure login from any computer with the internet,’ she said.
‘Practice staff have confidence they can provide high-quality patient care and better patient experiences with a cloud-based EMR because of the secure and rapid access to patient records, to allow informed decisions to be made by their GP, which ultimately leads to better health outcomes.
‘Rather than spending time in emergency departments, their GP – who knows them [patients] best – can consult over telehealth and refer to their cloud-based EMR,’ Natalie said.
Recently the practice received a call from pathology at 7.00 pm notifying of a positive blood-clot test after the patient had presented with mild symptoms in the morning, when an electrocardiogram and other urgent bloods had been ordered.
The practice doctor phoned the patient and advised them to go straight to hospital, sending the patient’s complete health summary, relevant specialist letters and the morning’s ECG and bloods to the emergency department – providing hospital staff a complete picture of the patient when they arrived.
‘All of this was able to be completed by the GP from the comfort of their home,’ Natalie said.
Many rural healthcare providers have experienced floods, bushfires and major power outages, cutting access or making it unsafe at times to open or attend their respective medical centre. However, a cloud-based EMR enables patient care to be maintained from elsewhere.
‘You also don’t have the IT support like you do in metropolitan areas, so I’ve done nearly all of it myself and my IT costs have been negligible for four-and-a-half years as there’s no need for physical infrastructure and upgrades are automatic.
‘The attraction to rural medicine for many healthcare workers is the variety of work and the location; cloud based EMR supports a more balanced work–life approach.
‘Rural general practice has never been, and never will be, a nine-to-five desk job; a cloud-based EMR supports this reality,’ Natalie said.