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ePathology –Patient Centricity & Physician Simplicity?

Following on from our recent eHealth post, we thought we’d delve into the world of ePathology services and their role in an increasingly cloud-based patient record system.

ePathology is the latest addition to eHealth’s patient medical record system, adding electronic pathology test results into the mix to allow NSW physicians to make more informed diagnosis and treatment decisions.

Not only is this likely to improve waiting times to receive test results, which is great news for diseases where rapid and early diagnosis is essential, but it will also simplify things for physicians by ensuring a more comprehensive and aligned record of patients’ health is immediately accessible. This will no doubt help close information gaps to ensure health professionals are as informed as possible, particularly in cases where second opinions on diagnoses may be required, or where several different physicians are involved in one patient’s treatment. On the other hand, although second opinions on diagnoses can occasionally be invaluable, there are surely also cases where too many cooks spoil the broth and physician opinion becomes fractured, potentially delaying treatment.

Not only is this likely to improve waiting times... This will no doubt help close information gaps... to optimise, standardise and refine treatment approaches.
 
From a wider perspective, the provision of ePathology repositories provide in effect a pathology database, which could be used in large-scale tracking studies of diagnoses and treatment responses to optimise, standardise and refine treatment approaches, improve personalised medicine approaches across different patient groups, or even aid epidemiological studies in helping monitor the spread of infectious diseases. 

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But ePathology could also open a fresh can of worms when it comes to data protection. Who should have access to a patient’s test results? Should it be restricted to health professionals who are trained in interpreting them, or should patients also have a right to view their information too? What about their relatives or carers? What constitutes an ‘emergency’ that would allow normally unauthorised hospital staff to access records? Indeed, how will the health insurance industry respond to this new wealth of information on the status of their customers’ health? These issues are made all the more pressing in an age where incidents of hacking, public leaks and identity fraud are on the rise.

Who should have access to a patient’s test results? ... How will the health insurance industry respond?

ePathology is still in its early days, but stands at a pivotal point in the path towards patient centricity: while it does throw up crucial questions surrounding the security and access rights of patients’ highly sensitive information, it also simplifies diagnosis and treatment decisions for physicians, ultimately improving patient outcomes. It will certainly be interesting to see its longer term impact on Australian healthcare.

At ACA Research we are immersed in all things healthcare. We conduct regular research studies with healthcare professionals and health decision-makers at all levels and settings across Australia. Our ‘setting first’ approach to research means that outcomes are framed within a relevant context and easily translatable into actions. Please contact nscott@acaresearch.com.au for more details.

 

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Topics: Healthcare Research Health