Victorian doctors are calling on the state government to invest $50 million into improving the "unsatisfactory" interface between hospitals and general practitioners in its upcoming state budget.
The Victorian chapter of the Australian Medical Association today made public its submission [pdf] to the state's 2015-16 budget, due to be handed down early next month.
It argued that the poor state of communication between hospitals and GPs is jeopardising patient care and needs to be prioritised for funding.
Currently, once a patient has been discharged from hospital, their GP might receive information on their treatment and diagnoses from the hospital via fax, phone, email or hard-copy letter.
Only a number of state hospitals have the technology to send encrypted emails to GP clinics about a person's medical history - despite encryption for such details being required by law.
"Steady recurrent funding would address several key issues including the lack of functional up-to-date computers and the lack of standardised software between hospital networks," the organisation wrote.
Improving the secure online delivery of a patient’s discharge summary or test results would have the most significant and immediate impact, the AMA said.
"Clinical handover is core to best practice and there needs to be better communication between hospitals and GPs," it said.
"This will improve the safety and quality of care provided to the patient and increase efficiencies within the care setting."
An improved interface would also greatly reduce expensive hospital readmissions, the AMA said.
It called on the state government to provide $50 million - $10 million in the first year and $20 million in each two following years - to improve communication delivery.
The Liberal state government last year allocated $80 million to hospitals and health services in an attempt to reverse the state's reputation as an IT disaster zone, following the aborted HealthSMART project that was officially retired in 2013.
The Labor-led project - which current Liberal health minister David Davis dubbed the "Myki of health" - had attempted to introduce a common software footprint across Victoria’s healthcare sector.
But after the project overran by $150 million, the subsequent Liberal state government in 2012 said no more money would be spent on it.
Only four hospitals had electronic patient records, prescription and discharge summaries at that point, almost ten years on from the project's 2003 inception.
In the lead up to last year's state election, Davis finally began distributing funds from a $100 million e-health pool set up in 2012 to expand the capabilities of hospitals and health services.