General practitioners (GPs) are the health professionals most often consulted by Australians, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Data indicates that for those of us living in outer metro and regional areas, there are longer waiting periods to see a GP, an increased likelihood of delayed visits or, unfortunately, not seeing a GP at all. This is due, in part, to increased demand and lack of availability of GPs. Further data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that these areas are experiencing health workforce shortages.
How can we utilise this data to improve the provision of such a valuable but limited resource?
Most practices utilise some form of data management system. These platforms, which collect and store patient and practice data, enable GPs and practice managers to visualise and monitor key practice priorities, providing important clinical and practice management insights.
For example, data can provide GPs with insights into good clinical practice and time saving efforts – such as prompting them about a missed opportunity for patient care.
As another example, through the collection of data, primary health networks (PHNs) could potentially identify higher-than-average occurrence of a health condition among patients across a specific geographical location. The PHNs can then address this issue by commissioning services, education or prevention efforts, to reduce pressure on the healthcare system and achieve better health outcomes for patients.
Exploiting these capabilities is vital to the efficient operation of GP clinics.
It allows GPs to gather information necessary to better manage and operate their practice. Not only dealing with a challenging workforce shortage, practices in rural areas face additional barriers in the form of geographical spread, limited infrastructure and the high cost of delivering health care in those areas.
Data gives clinics valuable insights into operational analytics of the practice by collecting various performance metrics. They can then potentially adjust workforce and logistical processes and procedures according to practice and patient use and needs. For example, if data gathered suggest there is a high number of patients missing appointments, the practice can take steps to fix the problem, such as implementing appointment reminders or requiring confirmation by patients. The ability to address issues can result in better GP availability and reduced pressure on workforce, benefiting patients and physicians alike.
On top of more efficient practice management, the extracted health information can contribute to more optimised treatments for patients, provide notice of any specific health trends, monitor medication use, among other solutions. This can help reduce revisits by patients, easing further burden and pressure on GPs and practices. As the data can be translated into complete and accurate information, it can advise practices of areas where they can improve and better plan for their patients’ individual health needs.
Essentially, data used to identify patient health patterns and trends can potentially be a key for more-informed treatment plans and improved health outcomes.
Further, business information collected and analysed can help clinics better manage their finances and optimise allocation and distribution of funds necessary to the continuity of a business.
A leading analytic platform available for GPs is POLAR by Outcome Health – an innovative, modern, web-based clinical intelligence tool designed to support GPs in providing the best patient care, while optimising business output.
By analysing practice data through POLAR, practices can use the platform to make timely, informed decisions. Using innovative intelligence tools and a comprehensive approach, POLAR is able to integrate multiple levels of information, helping GPs to be more confident in the data they are looking at.
In a complex healthcare landscape, we surely need these kinds of evidence-based insights, helping practices to utilise available data in order to deliver better health outcomes and improve patient experience.