Best Practice Software

Cybersecurity Revisited – Education for Your Practices

This time last year, we posted an article highlighting the dangers of cybersecurity attacks in the healthcare industry, with some practical suggestions for minimising the risk of an attack on your practice around staff training and behaviour. As we approach October again, the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NSCAM), we look at what’s changed in the last year, and the work our training team have done to help you introduce your staff to cybersecurity and develop your own practice policies in this critical space.

Healthcare Still The Prime Target

The Notifiable Data Breaches report from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) for the last half of 2022 still numbers Health Service Providers as the most affected industry sector for notifying data breaches.

Chart from the Notifiable Data Breaches Report

With healthcare still the leader for data breach notifications, it remains more important than ever to consider the value of training your staff on cybersecurity concepts like phishing (and now ‘smishing’), social engineering, password strength, and remote login, as well as updating your practice policies to reflect best practices.

The Australian Competitions and Consumer Corporation’s 2023 report Targeting Scams also highlights some trends in scam-related contacts over the last year. The top contact method for scam attempts is now SMS text message, or ‘smishing’, where scammers attempt to impersonate a government agency, like Medicare or the ATO, or a private company such as Amazon or the tolling company Linkt, with a hyperlink to a scam site to enter credential information and potential access to bank account details or personal data.

With SMS messaging a standard practice-patient communications method, and healthcare a prime target for cybercriminals, it’s inevitable that cyberattacks by SMS will become more and more frequent and both practices and patients will need education on how to spot a scam text message as much as a phishing email attempt.

Partnering With You Legal

To help guide your practice in forming its policies around key concepts and processes, Best Practice Software recently partnered with Sarah Bartholomeusz of You Legal to present a webinar titled Cybersecurity at Your Practice.

Sarah went through You Legal’s five-step process for preparing your practice for a cyberattack event, reducing the chances of an attack, and understanding your legal obligations that constitute your response to an attack, including assessment, remedial action, and notification to the OAIC. This is critical information that your practice must be aware of as key targets of cybercriminal activity.

Also presented in the webinar were demonstrations of the Bp Premier features you can use to implement some of the strategies discussed in the first half, such as the use of the backup schedule for disaster recovery, the comprehensive password management options now on offer, fine-tuning lockdown of the clinical record, and using the audit history tool as part of an incident assessment.

An Introductory eLearning Course For Your Practice

The Bp training team are proud to announce a free education resource for all of our practices, called Practicalities of Cybersecurity at Your Practices.

This is an introductory course that will explain some of the terminology and concepts in cybersecurity that are relevant to medical practices. The course also introduces some best practices around staff training on cybersecurity, including how to spot a phishing email, what a social engineering phone call might sound like, and the importance of due diligence around third party integrations.

We’ve provided plenty of up to date Australian government and peak body resources to start creating and updating your own practice policies on privacy and cybersecurity.

 

If you are interested in your staff undertaking this short elearning course, you can email training@bpsoftware.net for the link to get started!

Authored by:

Jay Rose Author Image

Jay Rose
Lead Content Developer at Best Practice Software

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Preparing Your Practice for MyMedicare

MyMedicare is the new voluntary patient registration initiative recently announced by the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoHAC). Registration in MyMedicare is voluntary for patients, practices, and providers, and aims to strengthen the relationships between patients and their primary care teams.

MyMedicare is a hot topic, and information on items like patient eligibility criteria, and workflows for registration is expected to be available soon from DoHAC. Bp Software is closely monitoring this space, and we are committed to keeping you informed along this journey.

What Does MyMedicare Mean For Your Practice?

MyMedicare is progressing with staggered phasing for availability of benefits for your practice and your registered patients. Some key milestones that have been shared are:

  • Practice registrations commenced 1st July 2023,
  • Patient registration commences 1st October 2023,
  • New MBS funding for registered patients for longer telehealth consults commences 1st November 2023,
  • Restructured aged care incentives, chronic disease management, and funding for frequent hospital from mid-2024 onwards.

What Can I Do Now?

While some information is still to come, there are things that you can do today. You can confirm your practice’s eligibility, register providers for MyMedicare, and prepare for questions that patients may have right now.

Practices do not have to actively register with MyMedicare. A practice will be available for selection as the regular practice for a registering patient if some simple eligibility criteria available on DoHAC’s MyMedicare information page are met. If your practice fits the criteria, no other action is necessary.

Providers must be linked to your practice in the Organisation Register for patients to register with them. This Services Australia checklist walks you through the steps to ensure both your practice and providers are registered correctly in preparation for patient enrolments.

Patient eligibility criteria, and instructions for patient registration will be released by DoHAC closer to the 1st October date for registration commencement. It’s expected that to register with your practice, a patient must have visited two times in the last two years and hold a Medicare or DVA card.

In preparation for MyMedicare in October, you may wish to generate lists of patients who would benefit from MyMedicare registration, such as aged care residents, long telehealth consult users, frequent hospital visitors, and patients with chronic and complex conditions.

How Will Registration Work?

Patient registration commences on 1st October 2023, and is a key area where further information is expected to come soon. So far, it’s known that:

  • Patients will be able to register through MyGov,
  • Practices will be able to invite a patient to register through PRODA via the Medicare App,
  • Paper registration forms will be available for patients to complete, and practices to submit through PRODA and retain,
  • Confirmation of a patient’s registration will be visible as a document in My Health Record.

All registration methods will require consent from both parties: a practice must agree to the patient’s request, and the patient must agree to any invitation sent from a practice to register.

For More Information

We understand that MyMedicare is a very new initiative, and that new information and announcements can naturally bring questions. While there may be questions that we are unable to answer at this stage, Bp Software is committed to keeping you up to date with information, and resources that we create to support our practices as they are made available. Access the Bp Premier Knowledge Base, and search for ‘MyMedicare’ to find our resources at any time.

The following Department of Health and Aged Care resources provide more information about MyMedicare, and the upcoming changes regarding telehealth, aged care incentives, and chronic condition items:

Department of Health and Aged Care MyMedicare information page and eligibility

MyMedicare and Practice Registration Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

Services Australia MyMedicare Overview multimedia (go to eLearning > MyMedicare – Overview)

DOHAC Checklist of Steps to Register for MyMedicare in the Organisation Register (PDF)

Authored by:

Jay Rose Author Image

Jay Rose
Lead Content Developer at Best Practice Software

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The National Prescription Delivery Service is here! What does it mean for you?

The Australian electronic prescribing ecosystem has evolved significantly over the last decade. From the introduction barcodes for paper prescriptions, Real Time Prescription Monitoring, token-based electronic prescriptions, and all the way to the new My Script List functionality in Bp Premier Orchid SP1, the positive innovation has been continuous.

At its core, electronic prescribing in all its forms aims to benefit patients, prescribers, and dispensers alike. Just some of the many ways that this is achieved is through reductions in errors, and improvements in efficiency for prescribing and dispensing medicines, and by providing more modern and secure options for patients to better manage their prescriptions.

The National Prescription Delivery Service Is Available Now

In May this year, the Department of Health and Aged Care announced that Fred IT’s eRx Script Exchange (eRx) was engaged as the single provider for the National Prescription Delivery Service (NPDS). The intention of moving to a single NPDS is to provide streamlined prescription delivery management, and to continue to keep the transfers of prescription information cost-neutral for prescribers and practices, pharmacists, and patients alike into the future.

The NPDS commenced on 1st July 2023, and the deadline of 30th September 2023 for prescribers in your practice to connect to this is rapidly approaching.

What Does the National PDS Mean for my Practice?

To continue prescribing PBS medications, all prescribers in your practice must be registered with eRx Script Exchange, and be configured to use eRx in Bp Premier before the 30th September 2023 deadline.

This advice applies to all prescriptions created in Bp Premier, whether they be:

  • A traditional paper-based prescription that contains a barcode,
  • An end-to-end electronic prescription sent as a QR code via the Best Health App, an SMS or email to your patient, or printed as a paper token.

If prescribers in your practice are yet to register for eRx, you can begin the process today by visiting this website.

It’s also vital that you install the upgrade to Bp Premier Orchid SP1 in time for the 30th September deadline. The new NPDS also includes ongoing funding for providing electronic prescriptions to patients via SMS delivery, with the current funding arrangements set to cease alongside the deadline.

Orchid SP1 contains the necessary changes to switch to this new funding arrangement, so ensure that you upgrade before 30th September to continue to offer SMS delivery of electronic prescriptions at no cost. From 1st October onwards, if you’ve not upgraded to Orchid SP1, each SMS for an electronic prescription will be charged at 4c, and will be deducted from your Bp Comms balance.

What are my next steps?

To be prepared for the 30th September deadline, you should complete the following steps:

  1. Register all prescribers in your clinic with eRx as soon as possible,
  2. Configure all prescribers to use eRx in Bp Premier,
  3. Upgrade to Orchid SP1 to avoid fees for sending electronic prescriptions via SMS.

For More Information

Help, and any further information that you may require is available.

You can access the Bp Premier Knowledge Base at any time by clicking Help, then Online, or by hitting the F1 shortcut key. Simply search for the keyword ‘eRx’ and you’ll find detailed instructions on configuring each of your prescribers in Bp Premier to use eRx, or search ‘upgrade’ to find instructions on installing the upgrade to Orchid SP1. Bp’s Support team are also available to assist on 1300 401 111.

For questions around the NPDS in general, the transition process and timeframe, or anything further in relation to this topic, you can reach the Department of Health and Aged Care directly via EPtransitions@health.gov.au for assistance.

 

Authored by:

Lais Miyasava
Training & Deployment Specialist at Best Practice Software

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Introducing Bp Omni

Bp Omni

Beta testing is underway for Best Practice Software’s new cloud-based solution.

The highly anticipated cloud-based practice management and clinical solution from Best Practice Software is now live in beta testing in New Zealand.

Bp Omni, previously known as Project Titanium, is an all-in-one solution which supports seamless integration between providers. The solution is designed to streamline and simplify the daily operations of healthcare providers; creating efficiencies in the management of patient records, scheduling appointments and billing.

“We are thrilled to be live in beta testing in New Zealand,” said Dr Frank Pyefinch, Founder and CEO of Best Practice Software. “We have spent time to understand the needs of health professionals and have developed a solution that is both powerful and user-friendly.”

The all-in-one solution is currently live in testing with a physiotherapy practice and is soon to be rolled out to beta with five additional practices over the coming months.

For Best Practice Software, who is Australia’s market-leading provider of medical software, this is the first step in Bp Omni’s release to market after six years of design and development.

The launch of Bp Omni to the allied health market in New Zealand was a conscious choice by the software developer; who has an existing customer base.

“The way in which we are developing Bp Omni means that the solution is perfect for initial release to allied health professionals, and it offers our existing customers a new cloud platform to move onto.” said Dr Pyefinch.

Further development of features and integrations will see Bp Omni become available to other allied health disciplines, general practitioners, and specialists both within New Zealand and Australia in the future.

Bp Software is moving forward with a singular focus of promoting a united front for Australasian healthcare providers. Bp Omni aims to provide a better future for healthcare providers and patients alike.

The future is one solution. The future is Bp Omni.

For more information on Bp Omni, please visit www.bpomni.co.nz

Media enquiries:

Danielle Bancroft
Chief Product Officer
Best Practice Software

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New Data Tools to Improve Your Patient Health Outcomes

Tools to improve your patient health outcomes blog graphic

In a busy practice, things sometimes get missed with the potential to cause harm to our patient.

We can now manage that risk. For instance, finding the patient where a significant test result has not been followed up, a patient who has not acted on a referral for a life-threatening condition, or who should be considered for different treatment.

At last, we can now improve the outcomes of patients by rapidly searching through practice clinical records using a data analysis tool.

The outcome of the care we provide a patient is limited by our patient’s willingness to listen and act as they have been advised in their best interests. The question is how do we mitigate the risks in a time-efficient manner? Are there tools that allow for a broad review of clinical risk? Importantly, can we link patient demographics and observations, diagnoses, medications, pathology or any other clinical metric? Can we also link this to income?

The answer to all these questions is yes.

At our practice we use Clinimetrix, an analytics platform, to analyse a full range of clinical data as well as detailed financial data. The outcomes for our patients and for the business have been nothing short of spectacular.

Clinimetrix works with free text entries in the reasons for encounter and diagnosis fields as well as coded records, a feature that is not available in other practice software.

From there you can make linkages that provide answers to clinical questions that you could never get easily before.

In our large practice, we can ask questions of Clinimetrix that have never been considered previously and then act on those findings to enhance our patients’ health.

For instance, you might be concerned that males with an elevated PSA have not been followed up. The question is – how many males aged 40 and over with a PSA greater than 3 have not been referred to a urologist in the previous 2 years? The answer – about 18. Of the 18, 2 had PSA results that suggested possible neoplasm but had not been referred.

Clinimetrix allows us to do this because it can link pathology results with communications to specialists or allied health professionals have been sent or received.

Or you might wonder how many patients had untreated hypertension? The question – how many people who visited in the last year had a systolic BP greater than 150 but were not prescribed any antihypertensive medication? The answer – 41 with some not followed up nor was their BP measured at the next visit.

You may have noticed a few patients with gonorrhoea in the past few months. The question is – how many were prescribed drugs according to guidelines? The answer – all of them.

The time taken to access the answers in each case was a few minutes.

At our practice, the benefits of this approach to using our clinical data have been clearly demonstrated by the recent Lumos* report where mortality rates for our patients 65 or older are nearly 50% lower than the state average.

In addition, results for diabetes, COPD, ED attendances and mental health issues are all more than 50% lower than the state average.

Analytics is also used to explore demographics and the incidence of disease groups, identifying unmet need in the community. It enables us to develop training and resources to better manage the scale of care.

Clinimetrix has become the mainstay for our preventative health team.

In essence Clinimetrix allows you to find those patients at risk AND shows you, easily, quickly and accurately where care delivery can be rewarding.

It also explains the finances of the business, to collate information required for the PIP Quality Improvement Incentive, track patient attendances for 75+ and 45-49 health assessments, and much more.

The mining of data has become a critical part of the success of our business over the past 7 years and as a practitioner and owner, I have found it to be one of the most valuable assets we have. Clinimetrix has enabled us to manage clinical risk and enhance health outcomes for our patients.

Authored by Dr Ron Tomlins.

*Lumos is a state-wide study involving more than 500 general practices conducted by NSW Health and WentWest and other PHNs.

Clinimetrix

Compatible with: Bp Premier
The most complete analytics tool available for medical practices in Australia. This detailed business intelligence platform is designed to enable you to understand all aspects of your business, improve clinical and financial outcomes through patient management.
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Men’s Health Week 2023 – A Focus on Healthy Habits

Men's Health Week Blog Image

Men’s Health Week is an annual campaign that runs from the 13th to the 19th of June, and each year focuses on a different topic in an effort to provoke thought and discussion about what can be done to improve male health.

Men’s Health Week was first observed in 1994 as an initiative enacted by the US Congress but has since evolved and is now recognised on a global scale; with the USA, UK, most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa all recognising the significance of the event.

In Australia, Men’s Health Week is overseen by the Centre for Male Health at Western Sydney University.

Why is Recognition of Men's Health Important?

Studies show that in Australia, men are far less likely to reach out to a medical professional when facing physical or mental health issues. Men are also less likely to engage or rely on their social networks for support. Furthermore, the health of the average male is, generally speaking, poorer than that of woman in terms of life expectancy, serious accidents, cancer, heart disease, workplace fatalities, learning difficulties and suicides.

Men's Health - By the Numbers

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) publishes regular statistics on the health of Australian males and females. Below are a number of statistics drawn from the AIHW’s most recent reports, highlighting areas of concern for men’s health.

1. Men and boys account for 3 in 5 avoidable deaths
More than 6 out of 10 (roughly 62%) of people who die prematurely in Australia are male. In major cities, 50% of those premature male deaths are potentially avoidable, compared with remote areas where 64% of male deaths are potentially avoidable.

2. Men and boys experience a greater burden of disease
The ‘burden of disease’ is a measure that quantifies the health impact of disease on a population in any given year – both from dying early, or from living with disease and injury. Since 2011, males in Australia experienced a greater share of the total disease burden (54%) than females.

3. The rate of death by heart disease is nearly twice as high in men
Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Australians, which is responsible for the deaths of nearly 30 men (29.8) and more than 20 women (22.5) per day. Men are more likely to die from coronary heart disease at a younger age, which translates to the rate of death being nearly twice as high in males than females, when adjusted for differences in the age structure of the populations.

4. 2 in 5 men experience violence in adulthood
Exposure to violence is a known risk factor that may increase the likelihood of poor health. Men are more likely than women to be exposed to violence. More than 1 in 3 women, and more than 2 in 5 men have experienced violence since they turned 15.

5. Suicide is a leading cause of death
While leading causes of death vary by age, as of June 2022 suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 15-24 and 24-44, with 38% and 22% of deaths, respectively, caused by suicide. Overall, men account for 3 in 4 suicides in Australia, with 6 men taking their own lives every day on average.

Sadly, this statistic is on the rise. Between 2011 and 2021, male suicide rates rose by 13%.

Forming Healthy Habits

The theme for Australia’s 2023 Men’s Health Week is Healthy Habits, with five topics forming the basis of the overarching message:

Eat – With nearly 7 in 10 men in Australia being overweight or obese, there is a focus on examining, and improving, men’s relationship with food.

Sleep – Looking at why proper rest is as important as exercise and nutrition, and how not getting enough sleep creates negative flow-on effects.

Drink – 24% of men in Australia recognise themselves as ‘risky drinkers’, and excessive alcohol consumption is known to be a major risk factor for a variety of health problems. This topic aims to focus in on how alcohol impacts men’s health.

Move – What men should know about exercise, its overall positive correlation to physical and mental health, and how being active is essential for a healthy body and mind.

Connect – Why mateship is essential for good health, and a continuing focus on breaking down the stigma of men talking about their feelings.

More Information & Resources

While men’s health becomes a focus during one week in June, many of the above topics are essential for consideration to ensure strong physical and mental health year-round. Through recognition of the challenges men face, we can strive to better identify men’s health needs, and improve men’s health outcomes.

For more information on this year’s Men’s Health Week and its focus on Healthy Habits, please visit the resources below:

Healthy Male – Men’s Health Week 2023
Australian Men’s Health Forum – Know Your Man Facts
Western Sydney University – Centre for Male Health

Authored by:

Photo of Louis Valenti, blog author.

Louis Valenti
Marketing & Communications Leader at Best Practice Software

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New Consent and Policy Solutions – for Better Trust and Consumer Control

Blog Graphic - Patient Consent & Policy

MedInfo 2023– the 19th world congress on Medical and Health (8-12 July 2023, Sydney) – is a prestigious international event that will bring together thousands of digital health leaders and practitioners at the forefront of healthcare.

Best Practice Software is pleased to present a new approach for computable consent and policy solutions at this event – as an enabler for establishing better trust and consumer control in an increasingly interoperable and AI-aware digital health ecosystem.

Best Practice Software is working on this approach to allow consumer consent expression in a way that would support their integration with clinical and administrative workflows in the increasingly interoperable digital health ecosystem. This ecosystem involves many existing and future health service delivery partners, as well as new providers specialising in analytics and AI solutions, as we presented earlier in [1]. The ecosystem also requires giving consumers more control over how their health data are used, for the primary or secondary purpose, the latter of which are research and clinical trial applications.

The approach has been in the making over the last year or so [2], as a result of the recognition of Best Practice Software for a need to better support future digital health expectations of clinicians and consumers. These expectations are in terms of helping with increasing their trust in the use of new digital health services, including CDSs and generative AI, while ensuring that the existing and future regulatory and medical principles are respected. The aim is to develop an approach that can best accommodate new and changing rules coming from the regulatory, legislative, and organizational governance structures.

The essence of this approach consists of the ability to represent consent and other policies in terms of computational rules that, on one hand, closely reflect natural language expression of policies while, on the other hand, can be flexibly integrated with interoperability solutions, such as HL7 FHIR, as shown in the figure below. These computational rules are based on the latest scientific and technical proposals for the expression of the concepts of obligations, prohibitions, permissions, delegation, authorization, and broader accountability concepts while leveraging relevant ISO and HL7 standards [2].

Consent Management Image

At MedInfo23, Best Practice Software will demonstrate how the concept of informed consent is positioned as part of the broader, ‘computable policy’ layer and how it can be used with the HL7 FHIR standard while harmonized with the information security policies – to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of healthcare data and systems. This will be done through a clinical trial use case.

The significance of this approach is broader when considering an increasing number of new AI solutions, both general and domain-specific generative AI solutions. Their applications in the medical domain will no doubt require meeting privacy, ethics, safety, and other regulatory policies, and the ability to express related policy rules in a computable fashion facilitates faster, more predictable, and reliable digital health systems for both clinicians and consumers.

Best Practice Software will be pleased to share this approach with the international digital health community at MedInfo23 and discuss further improvements with interested colleagues. In the meantime, Dr. Zoran Milosevic and Dr. Frank Pyefinch would be available for early discussions, and they can be contacted at zoran.milosevic@bpsoftware.net and Frank.Pyefinch@bpsoftware.net.

References
[1] Dr Frank Pyefinch, Dr Zoran Milosevic, The New Generation of Practice Management Systems – From Interoperability to AI, BP Evolution Newsletter, Feb 2022, https://bpsoftware.net/new-generation-of-practice-management-systems/

[2] Milosevic Z, Pyefinch F, Computable consent – from regulatory, legislative, and organizational policies to security policies, Proc. of the EDOC 2022 Conf, Lect. Notes in Computer Soc., Springer, p.3-18

Authored by:

Dr. Zoran Milosevic
Interoperability and AI Consultant Best Practice Software



   

Dr. Frank Pyefinch
Founder and CEO
Best Practice Software

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The Dos and Don’ts of Marketing Your Practice

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Your practice is up and running. Your admin staff are well trained, you have the top clinicians in the area, and your appointment book is ready to be filled. However, if no one knows about your practice, it might as well not even exist. That’s where marketing comes into play. Marketing your practice involves getting the word out about your practice to attract patients and keep them coming back.

The Australia Medical Association estimates there are around 7,000 GP clinics in Australia. How will you ensure your practice stands out amongst the crowd?

When devising your practice’s marketing strategy, you might ask yourself plenty of questions, like: do I need a website? Which demographic should I be targeting? How much should I spend on advertising? Where should I be advertising?

While making these decisions, it’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of marketing your practice. This article is here to help you determine which marketing channels may be the right fit for your practice and get you thinking about advertising regulations that may impact your strategy.

Which Advertising Channels Should You Choose?

Before considering which advertising channels to invest in, it’s important to establish your marketing objectives and budget to achieve those goals. A great place to start is understanding how many patients you need to hit your goals and the amount you’re willing to spend to acquire a patient.

Regardless of your budget’s size, it’s important to figure out what you’re comfortable spending before planning your advertising channels.


Online Channels

You can use countless channels and strategies to market your practice, and a website is the perfect place to start. In an increasingly digital world, you should first build a website for your practice, which will be the hub for your marketing efforts. This is where potential patients will come to learn more about your practice and can likely be their first impression. The simpler your website is, the better! Building a website might sound overwhelming, but plenty of website providers such as Wix, SquareSpace, and WordPress make setting up a site with ready-made templates easy. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. A website is also the backbone of your online marketing; it’s the destination for online ads, social media links, search engine optimisation, and google my business listings. To learn more about building an online presence, check out our recent article.


Offline Channels

Despite the prominence of online marketing, offline advertising, such as billboards, street signs, retail signage, and radio, can still play a role in your marketing strategy. Depending on your target demographic and marketing goals, a localised offline advertising push can help to build awareness of your practice. Consider enquiring with nearby retail centres offering signage for advertising, as this is a great way to target locals while they’re doing their regular grocery shopping. A similar option is advertising in local bus shelters, another great way to target a local audience. Remember to include your practice’s name and contact information in your advertisements – you don’t want them to forget who you are!

You’ll also want to consider external signage for your practice. Visiting a medical practice can be stressful for a patient, so you want to ensure their experience locating and arriving at your practice is as seamless as possible. A clear street presence improves your patient’s experience from the moment they arrive at your practice and alerts others passing by that you exist!

You can also consider the signage you have inside your practice. You may have added a new service or would like to remind patients to book in for a routine vaccination or screening. You could consider flyers at the reception desk before patients settle into their social media scroll session or opt for posters with bright colours and bold text that will capture their eyes in the waiting room.

Email
Once a patient has visited your practice, email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with them. You may want to set up automated appointment reminders to reduce last-minute cancellations or no-shows. Or maybe you’d like to send out a monthly newsletter that provides existing patients with updates about your practice and relevant health information. Email marketing is a great way to build patient trust and loyalty to your practice, and plenty of online platforms make the process as easy as possible!

What Considerations Do You Have To Make In Your Advertising?

Whether your marketing strategy includes a website, social media, email, or offline marketing, it is crucial to consider the advertising regulations that can impact your messaging.

 

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) works to protect the public by ensuring Australia’s health practitioners are “suitably trained, qualified, and safe to practice.”

 

AHPRA’s ‘Guidelines for advertising regulated health services’ provides a great starting point for wrapping your head around the regulatory framework of advertising your practice. It’s also important to note that other legislation may apply to your marketing, such as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Keeping AHPRA’s regulations in mind, below are some dos and don’ts when marketing your practice.

DO: Identify Your Target Demographic

Spending $100,000 on billboards in the city might sound appealing and attract many eyes; after all, the more people that see your ads, the better, right? Not necessarily. if your practice is an hour south of that billboard, you’re unlikely to see a return on your investment. Identifying your target demographic will allow you to tailor your advertising channels and messaging to address their needs. Doing so will also ensure you’re efficiently spending your marketing budget and not wasting it on media your desired audience will never see. Quality over quantity!

If you’re an established practice with existing patient data, your practice management system should have reporting functionality to allow you to extract demographic data. If you’re a Bp Premier user, our training team offers an advanced practice management course that deep-dives into the reporting feature. If you’re a new practice, researching the demographics of your geographical location is a great place to start!

DON'T: Use Misleading Images

AHPRA states that advertising may be in breach if the advertisement doesn’t clearly say which treatment has caused the benefit shown in the image or if the image has been edited. That includes using before and after photos, as this may mislead the audience into thinking they will achieve the exact results as the photo.

If you’d like to use images in your marketing materials, people are increasingly attracted to businesses with an authentic feel, and real photos and videos of your practice and team can go a long way to connecting with potential and existing patients. You can also use licensed images from a site like Shutterstock or Getty Images to supplement your original content.

DO: Encourage Reviews From Current Patients

Despite digital advertising being so prominent in modern society, word of mouth has remained the most trusted marketing channel, with 88% of people saying they trust recommendations from people they know more than any other channel (Neilson 2021). Online reviews are the digital evolution of traditional word-of-mouth, with a BrightLocal consumer survey indicating that 49% of respondents trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from family and friends.

Not only can positive reviews help attract new patients, but they can also help you understand how to improve your patient experience. For example, you may discover a patient had difficulty finding your practice’s location, which indicates you might need to enhance your external signage and check your online listings.

A way to encourage reviews is to strike while their appointment is front of mind. You can request feedback while the patient is still in your practice or set up automated emails requesting feedback a couple of hours after their appointment.

DON'T: Use Testimonials About The Clinical Side Of Your Practice In Your Advertising

AHPRA’s advertising guidelines indicate that your advertising “must not use recommendations or positive statements about the clinical aspects of a regulated health service.” Therefore, if a patient leaves a review about how great the medication the GP supplied was for treating their sore back, that review cannot be used as marketing material. Alternatively, suppose a patient review mentions how the receptionist made them feel comfortable and relaxed. That is a great review to include as a testimonial on your website or advertising.

DO: Use Truthful Messaging In Your Advertising Based On Your Practice's Merit

Content is king! Your marketing messaging should be based on your practice’s merit and speak to your level of care. Clear and professional messaging will go a long way to gaining credibility and trust with potential patients.

On your website, you may include:
• Your doctors’ qualifications.
• The history of your practice.
• Your practice’s vision and approach to patient care.

DON'T: Offer Significant Discounts Or Gifts

A retail store advertising a flash 30% off sale is a vastly different story than promoting 30% off a GP consult. Issues arise when the value of the discount or gift outweighs the value of the offering, as this may encourage people to seek unnecessary treatment. According to AHPRA, you can advertise discounts or gifts if the advertisement states the terms and conditions and that those terms and conditions are not misleading. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to steer clear of this advertising method.

The success of your practice is greatly dependent on your marketing strategy. Your practice may be just the one someone’s been looking for, so let’s make sure they discover what you’re all about. Take the time to figure out what marketing pathways fit best with your practice’s vision and goals, and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it right the first time! Make sure to familiarise yourself and any team members looking after your marketing with the complete list of AHRPA’s advertising guidelines and set up a clear framework within the current regulations.

Authored by:

Photo of blog author Tegan Swann

Tegan Swann
Marketing & Communications Specialist at Best Practice Software

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The Patient Population of General Practice

The Patient Population of General Practice Blog Graphic

As a healthcare professional, it’s crucial to understand the benefits of providing tailored and effective care to patients, and planning for the future of your practice. Understanding the population of general practice takes the guesswork out of your strategic business decisions and provides a deeper insight into how practitioners can personalise care.

 

Fortunately, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) compiles the Health of the Nation Report each year, which includes valuable insights into the patient population. This annual report sheds light on the current state of Australian General Practice. It provides insights into trends RACGP gathers from government and industry publications alongside data from surveying GPs.

 

To ensure their report addresses the most prevalent topics circulating the general practice landscape, the RACGP asks members to vote on a focus topic. 2022’s Health of the Nation report focuses on the sustainability of general practice; including themes of unsustainable workloads, burnout, administrative burdens, and remuneration. Understanding the patient population is crucial when considering the sustainability of general practice and planning for your practice’s future.

 

This article summarises RACGP’s findings on the patient population and results from the 2021-2022 Australian Bureau of Statistics information on patient experiences.

What Factors Influence the Patient Population of Australia?

With 84% of Australians visiting a GP annually, it may seem like a no-brainer to tailor your practice’s business and marketing strategy to a broad audience. However, the patient population is constantly evolving. When planning for your practice’s future, it is essential to consider factors such as geography, gender, age, and socioeconomic status and how such factors determine how often a patient may visit and the number of services they use.

 

It’s no surprise that the geography of patients can impact their relationships with general practice. According to the RACGP’s 2022 Health of the Nation Report, people living in and close to major cities see a GP more frequently. Regional or remote patients visit a GP for an average of four services, compared to eight from patients living in the city or surrounding suburbs. City dwellers are also more likely to have a telehealth consultation than those living in remote or regional areas (32.2% compared to 22.5%), contributing to the higher frequency of using GP services.

 

The Health of the Nation Report also explores how females access GP services more than males, with 88% of females visiting a GP annually compared to 78.9% of males. This has remained consistent year-on-year. Females also utilise more services, averaging around nine services used yearly, compared to males averaging around seven. Females were also more likely to have a telehealth consultation than men (36.5% compared to 24.8%). Despite Females utilising more services than males, they were 31.3% more likely to delay or not use GPs when needed than 24.8% of males. Similarly, females were less likely to utilise after-hours GP support than males.

 

Age also affects the frequency of GP visits and services used. 97.2% of people over 85 saw a GP compared to 72.2% of people aged 15-24. Age also contributes to the number of GP services used, with the RACGP’s report showing that the number of GP services used increases as the patient ages. The report also outlines how younger age groups are more likely to delay or not visit a GP due to economic factors, predominantly with the 25-34 age group.

 

Whether patients have long-term health conditions also contributes to the frequency and use of GP services. Those with long-term health conditions were significantly more likely to visit a GP at 94.5% compared to 71.4% of people without. Also, 6.7% of people with long-term health conditions visited an after-hours GP compared to 4.2% of people without. These results have also remained consistent year-on-year.

What Impact Do These Factors Have on the Perception of Care?

According to the RACGP’s Health of the Nation report, people outside of major cities have different views towards GP wait times and are more likely to report longer wait times for a GP appointment. The increased likelihood of reporting longer wait times may be attributed to 49.5% of people living in regional, remote, or very remote areas being more likely to wait at least 24 hours to see a GP for urgent care.

 

Similarly, the report indicates that those with long-term health conditions, females, and those living in areas with the most socio-economic disadvantage were also more likely to report longer wait times than other groups. Despite this, the 2022 report indicated that three in four people believe their wait time was acceptable, and 57% of those living in major cities reported waiting less than four hours between booking an appointment and seeing a GP for urgent care.

Some Topics Continue to Prevail...

The 2022 Health of the Nation report highlighted an important topic consistent over the past six consecutive years. The most predominant reason patients see a GP is for mental health, with 38% of consults including a mental health element. This statistic is also reflected from the GP’s perspective of the most concerning emerging patient health issues, with 49% of GPs reporting mental health as their primary concern.

Despite this concern remaining front of mind for the past six years, the prevalence of mental health issues in Australia has grown significantly since the pandemic, with symptoms of depression in patients increasing from 10% in 2020 to 28% in 2021. The report explores how young females are more likely to use GP services for mental health issues than any other group, with 24% of mental health appointments used by females aged 15-24. The rate of females seeking GP support for mental health decreases as they age. However, they consistently remain higher than males, with 25-34-year-old males contributing to 12% of GP Mental Health consults.

The 2022 Health of the Nation Report highlights the importance of understanding patient demographics in the ever-changing healthcare landscape. As the patient population’s relationship with general practice evolves, it is essential to consider how your practice can evolve. Patients appreciate the convenience of telehealth, with 76% of those who have used it agreeing that funding should continue in a post-pandemic world. Telehealth’s recent rapid adoption can be attributed to COVID-19. 

However, a report by RACGP explores how the benefits were recognised pre and post-pandemic. Patients accessing telehealth have increased satisfaction levels as it allows for reduced travel costs and disruption to employment. In turn, telehealth can help to reduce no-shows for your practice. Therefore, if lowering a patient’s barrier to accessing your practice is your goal, consider implementing and marketing your telehealth services. Along the same line, an online booking platform is a great way to evolve your practice into the digital world. In the 2021 Commbank Insights Report, 20% of patients prefer to manage their appointments via websites and apps. Patient satisfaction increases when they can manage their appointments anytime and from anywhere, with 56% of patients who used online bookings saying this process improved their patient experience.

The RACGP’s Health of the Nation report clarifies that a patient’s location, age, gender, socio-economic status, and medical history all play a role in determining the frequency and uptake of general practice services. Combining these patient population of general practice insights with your practice’s unique data can help you develop personalised strategies to meet the needs of your patients.

 

The complete 2022 RACGP Health of the Nation Report is available here.

Authored by:

Photo of blog author Tegan Swann

Tegan Swann
Marketing & Communications Specialist at Best Practice Software

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Prescribing a Healthy Dose of Gratitude on World Health Day!

World Health Day appreciation blog image

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 7 April 1948. During a conference to set up the United Nations, it was proposed that a global health organisation be established to promote health and advocate for healthcare the world over.

World Health Day is an excellent opportunity to pay it forward and show appreciation for healthcare providers who work on the frontline daily. Whether you are a Bp user or not, we would like to extend our utmost gratitude to all the healthcare providers out there.

With this milestone anniversary, we thought we’d use it as an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and revisit some significant milestones in Australasian healthcare history, recognising events, programs and initiatives that have brought us to where we are today.

St Helens Hospitals - 1905

We begin just after the turn of the 20th century, Following the New Zealand government’s enaction of the 1904 Midwives Act, which enabled the training and registration of midwives by the Health Department. As a result, seven state-owned maternity hospitals were opened to train midwives and provide maternity care for the wives of working men.

Named after St Helens in Lancashire, England, the seven hospitals were the first of their kind anywhere in the world. The first hospital was opened in Wellington on May 29, 1905, and subsequent hospitals were opened in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Gisborne, Invercargill and Wanganui.

The services provided by St Helens Hospitals were gradually incorporated into other hospitals, and the last of the hospitals to close was Auckland, in 1990.

School Dental Services - 1921

Following World War One, the New Zealand Government instituted a state-funded School Dental Service to combat the nation’s poor oral health. Two years later, an entirely female draft of dental nurses graduated – skilled in the use of the pedal-powered dental drill; which was often used without anaesthetic! 

Students who were – perhaps understandably – terrified of visiting the dentist while at school devised an ominous nickname for the service. Students whose names were called out for appointments were said to have visited the ‘Murder House’.

The School Dental Service existed until 2006, when it became the Community Oral Health Service. It now offers subsidised dental care for people aged 18 and under.

Disposable Syringes - 1956

In early 1956, New Zealand veterinarian Colin Murdoch of Christchurch was trying to develop a method of vaccination that eliminated risk of infection. While the ubiquitous glass syringes of the time were designed for multiple uses and sterilised between each use, infection still occurred from time to time.

At 27 years of age, Colin had the idea for single-use, disposable syringes made from a less expensive material than glass. It’s believed that the idea came to him while he was playing with a fountain pen!

He pitched the idea to the New Zealand Health Department, who ultimately dismissed his idea; claiming the invention was obscure and too futuristic. Not deterred by this setback, Murdoch filed a patent application.

Today, disposable plastic syringes are an indispensible feature of medical treatment, with nearly 16 billion used worldwide each year.

Polio Vaccine - 1956

In what would be a significant year for Australasian healthcare, June of 1956 saw the polio vaccine introduced into Australia.

Dr Percival Bazeley of the Commonwealth Serum Labratories (CSL) had been sent to work with renowned American virologist Jonas Salk in 1952, and in 1955 returned to Melbourne and began manufacturing the ‘Salk vaccine’. These were distributed across Australia in June of 1956, with 25 million doses produced by CSL under Dr Bazeley’s watch.

While many parents were enthusiastic about the vaccine, vaccination rates were not high enough, and the lack of herd immunity contributed to further polio outbreaks in 1961 and 1962.

In 1966, an oral vaccine developed by Polish-American medical researcher Albert Sabin was first used in Australia. In October 2000, the WHO declared the Western-Pacific region, which included Australia, to be polio-free.

Oral Contraceptive Pill - 1961

When oral contraceptive pill ‘Anovlar’ arrived in Australia in February of 1961, it ushered in a momentous change for the lives of women. While initially only available to married women, and burdened with a hefty luxury tax of 27.5%, the pill gave women the freedom to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and more carefully plan their journey into parenthood.

Offering women this kind of control over their reproductive future saw more women entering the workforce. More working women became the basis for ongoing social change, including legislation around equal pay and freedom from discrimination.

In 1972, during his first 10 days in office, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam universally abolished luxury taxes on contraceptives and placed the pill on the PBS list, making it available to women for $1 per month.

Today, the pill remains one of the most popular and safest forms of birth control.

Medicare - 1975

The first iteration of Australia’s public healthcare system began on 1 July 1975, after the passing of legislation by a joint sitting of Parliament of 7 August, 1974 under Gough Whitlam’s government.

After the Whitlam government was dismissed, the incoming government, led by Malcolm Fraser, modified Medibank by establishing a levy of 2.5% on income to fund it – but this levy could be avoided by taking out private health insurance instead. 

Many changes to Medibank followed, such as changes to agreements with states over how much money hospitals would receive, restrictions to benefits and bulk billing, and rebates for those who had private health insurance.

Most of these changes were controversial, and were revoked by the incoming Labor government of 1984, under Bob Hawke. Aside from a name change from Medibank to Medicare, the health system that operated from 1 February 1984 heavily resembled the initial implementation from 1975.

While Medicare remains in place today, it is a hotly debated political topic.

BreastScreen Australia - 1991

The BreastScreen Australia program was introduced in 1991 as a joint initiative of the Australian and state and territory governments. The purpose of the initiative was to reduce illness and death from breast cancer by detecting and, where possible, treating the disease early.

When the program was first introduced, it exclusively targeted women aged 50-69 years of age, believing this was the age group most likely to benefit. In 2013, it was extended to the 70-74 year old age group.

Research conducted in 2017 showed that over the program’s lifespan, breast cancer mortality has decreased at a population level by about 32%. This is due to both improvements in treatment, and early detection from screening.

From national and regional evaluations, it is estimated that early screenings prevent approximately 8 deaths for every 1,000 women screened in the age group of 50-74 years old.

As of 2023, Australian women aged 40 and over are eligible for free mammograms with BreastScreen Australia, with women aged 50-74 still the target demographic being actively targeted to participate.

The List Goes On!

While we’ve touched on some momentous and significant advancements in Australasian healthcare history in this article, there are dozens more events, programs, initiatives and people who have shaped, and made incredible contributions to our healthcare landscape. 

If you think we’ve missed a key milestone in Australasian healthcare history, let us know! We’d love to learn more about it and share it with our readers.

For more information about World Health Day, visit the WHO website.

Authored by:

Photo of Louis Valenti, blog author.

Louis Valenti
Marketing & Communications Leader
at Best Practice Software

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