Doctors optimistic over online shift

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 12:00 21/02/2014

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The move to digitalise GP healthcare and allow patients to check their test results online is in the early stages of development in the MidCentral District Health Board region.

Half of all practices in New Zealand could be offering the new encrypted online service by the end of the year.

Central PHO medical director Greig Russell said development was being done on a similar platform to what was being rolled out in different parts of the country.

"It's one of those exciting ideas, it's something that's going to make the GP's life easier, work easier for the nurses and receptionists and life simpler for the patients - fundamentally, it's a good idea," he said. "There are a lot of practical details to be worked through to bridge that gap between the dream and reality.

"So what we're doing is scoping a trial pilot so we can figure out how to do that journey from where we are now, and where we would like to be because it is such a cool idea."

Dr Russell said there was cautious optimism from general practices about going online.

"The general mood is excited, positive but cautious given there is a lot of issues to work through which could make it a less than an ideal experience if we don't get it right," he said.

The system would allow patients to ask reasonably simple questions to their GPs, request a repeat prescription and it will show administration documents including lab tests.

"The benefits are that you can communicate with your doctor and the doctor can reply at a time that is mutually convenient," he said.

"But it's not to replace appointments, it's to allow those little transactions questions which are not unimportant, it's designed to supplement the appointments."

Health Minister Tony Ryall said he wanted 50 per cent of New Zealand general practices offering encrypted online services by the end of the year.

"This gives patients much greater access to their own health information and the ability to manage more aspects of their own care," he said.

"The portals also offer huge benefits for doctors."

He said over the next few years patients would be able to do more and access more of their records online as technology and security developed.

"Between 15 and 20 per cent of general practices have, or are in the process of, implementing these portals," he said.

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