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What’s news in eHealth and practice management?

RACGP eHealth Forum


The annual RACGP eHealth Forum is a key calendar event for the RACGP Expert Committee – eHealth and Practice Systems, bringing together leaders in eHealth, general practice and government. The 2017 eHealth Forum was held on 23 November and the event generated robust and stimulating discussions on the current state of eHealth in general practice and has provided clear direction for the work of the committee in 2018.

Highlights from the event are available via the eHealth Forum website.

Privacy in General Practice

By Rob Hosking, Deputy Chair, RACGP Expert Committee – eHealth and Practice Systems


General practices are required to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles and other legislation such as the Privacy Act. As many of us move into a fully electronic online environment, it is vital we protect the privacy of our patients’ information.

Recent ransomware attacks around the world act a timely reminder to review and update your practice’s privacy policy, ensuring it remains applicable to current practice procedure and legal requirements. Our patients entrust us as custodians of their health information, and it is our responsibility to protect their privacy as we increasingly adopt technology to record, collect and store patient information. In our general practice’s transition to a fully computerised practice, we have been diligent in protecting our patients’ privacy and security information and to ensure this is not exposed to privacy breaches.

The RACGP has a privacy policy template which you can use as a guide and adapt its content to suit your practice’s procedures. Information covered in this template includes practice procedures, staff responsibilities, patient consent, access to information and collection, and use and disclosure of information. The template is designed to communicate to patients how a practice manages personal information and to complement other practice policies such as complaint resolution and breach notification procedures. The privacy policy template and a patient privacy pamphlet template are available along with other privacy resources via the RACGP Privacy resources webpage.

Your privacy policy should be freely available for your patients so they know that it exists and are able to access it. At my clinic, The Elms Family Medical Centre, a statement regarding our privacy policy is displayed at reception and on our website. This brief statement also explains how to access the full practice policy on privacy from reception. It's also a good idea to make reference to the privacy policy in your registration forms and other forms or notices.

The RACGP privacy policy template was developed with assistance from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The OAIC provides information on privacy, and training resources including privacy policies for GPs.

Remember to regularly review your privacy policy and keep it up-to-date.

Information back up in general practices

By Nathan Pinskier, Chair, RACGP Expert Committee – eHealth and Practice Systems

Back up

Failure to back up your practice data is a very costly risk that is not worth taking. The medico-legal implications for your business and your patients may be severe, not to mention the financial, medical, professional and personal implications. Every GP probably has a story of an actual or near miss experience when it comes to loss of medical records. One general practice in NSW was affected by a power outage where the Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) did not shut down the system correctly. The practice lost 3 days of patient and business data which may not seem significant, but resulted in expenses in the tens of thousands of dollars.

If we hark back to the days of paper files, risks of data loss included fires, floods and break-ins. While we can now protect our data from such hazards in the current digital age, new risks and vulnerabilities emerge including unexpected power outages, computer hacking and viruses. To combat these new risks, routine data backup must become a part of effective practice management.

There are three main types of data back-up:

  • Local or direct-attached hardware
  • Network back-up using a local server
  • Cloud storage

Be sure to familiarise yourself with the RACGP’s Guide to information backup in general practice.

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