Extra functionality has been added to pre-consultation clinical questionnaire platform BetterConsult to help support mental health-related consults, including the K10 and DASS21 questionnaires, along with the ability to find at-risk patients for preventative health initiatives.
BetterConsult, developed by digital health firm HealthShare and integrated with Best Practice, is a digital clinical questionnaire that provides GPs with a concise patient summary before the appointment.
It can take a patient’s medical history and symptom list, code the text into medical terms and then convert it into bullet points that are directly entered into a doctor’s clinical notes.
Launched in 2019, it was updated in 2020 to help clinics screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms or risk of infection, and a pre-COVID-19 vaccination screen was added in 2021, allowing patients to fill out the questionnaire at home prior to the appointment.
New functionality has now been added to allow patients to fill out the K10 and DASS21 forms prior to the appointment, aimed at improving the GP-patient interaction and allowing the GP to spend more time on treatment and management.
The ability to search for at-risk patients and provide them with preventative health support through free resources and health programs has also been added, including osteoarthritis, mental health, cardiovascular conditions and potentially identifying diseases such as chronic kidney disease earlier.
HealthShare co-founder Rami Weiss said more than five million questionnaires have now been completed since the product was launched, with 50,000 questionnaires a week now being filled out.
“It’s doubled in the last six months and we’ve had great research done with GPs showing how much they are getting value from the product, including reducing their admin burden and helping them practice at the top of their license,” Mr Weiss said.
“We’ve also had great feedback from patients who are saying it helps them better prepare for their time with their GP.”
K10 and DASS21 screens are usually completed in the consultation, with the GP waiting while the patient fills out the questionnaire. The doctor then calculates the score and decides on the next course of action, such as writing a mental health plan.
The new BetterConsult functionality allows the patient to fill in the questionnaire at home, Mr Weiss said. BetterConsult then calculates the score and adds the information into the BetterConsult doctor notes, and the GP is informed before the patient walks into the consult room.
“You’ve just taken things off the GP’s plate, you’ve allowed the patient to already be thinking through their symptoms, allowed the GP to better plan the consultation as they already have the K10/DASS21 score at the beginning of the consult together with information about the patient’s mental health symptoms and now you’ve got a much better quality interaction between the patient and the doctor,” Mr Weiss said. “And that’s how it’s played out.”
Preventative health support
Mr Weiss describes the other functionality as a “game changer”, helping overburdened GPs by identifying and streamlining free resources and funded programs for patients who are at risk of developing chronic illnesses. HealthShare has already collated a lot of this information in its FactSheets solution which is also integrated into GP clinical software.
“Traditionally we are relying on doctors to know every combination of every support resource or program that a patient is eligible for certain conditions,” Mr Weiss said. “You’re basically relying on the GP to be a superhuman, which is not possible with the limited amount of time they have, and they don’t have all the information at their fingertips. So we thought how can technology make this better?
“For example, what we’ve done is for patients who have diabetes or hypertension, who are more at risk of developing chronic kidney disease, is inside BetterConsult, we’re able to find patients when they come in to see the doctor for a diabetes check-up, for example. We’re able to see if they’ve had the relevant urine tests done in the last 12 months. And if they haven’t, we’re able to do two things.
“One, we’re able to ask the patient, would you like to get more information about why your kidney health is important when you have diabetes? The patients are saying yes – we’re seeing crazy numbers like 40 per cent of patients saying yes – and we then send them an SMS with information from Kidney Health Australia. And by clicking on the link, they’re reading about this and they’re better informed and engaged when they see their doctor.
“And then in the doctor summary, for any diabetes check-up, we inform them about the patient’s HbA1c levels and have they seen the endocrinologist and all that relevant information, but now we have something additional to say: This patient hasn’t had their uACR test done in the last 12 months, so consider doing that test to check for risk of CKD.”
Mr Weiss said the combined, the system has provided the patient at the right time with patient education materials so they are better informed, and provided the GP with the relevant support information to remind them that this patient could benefit from this test because they hadn’t had it done in the last 12 months, and these are the best practice clinical guidelines to do this.
“You’ve now provided the relevant guidance that hopefully can uncover at-risk CKD patients and allow them to get treatment earlier to avoid potentially kidney failure and dialysis which has massive positive impact on the patient and the broader health system.”
Mr Weiss said BetterConsult was also raising awareness about the National Diabetes Services Scheme run by Diabetes Australia, and with Epilepsy Action Australia about the government-funded nurse line. “Providing this information in the consultation means you are providing the right patient/GP at the right time with the right information and helping support the GP-patient consultation.,” he said.
“All of our resources and workflows are reviewed and signed off by an independent GP clinical panel who follow best-practice clinical guidelines and use a clinical governance framework to evaluate opportunities.”
BetterConsult is integrated into Best Practice, and the company is in discussions with other vendors in both the GP and non-GP specialist space. The technology is being used by specialists including cardiologists, rheumatologists and neurologists, and it will soon be available for allied health practitioners, with physiotherapists hopefully the first discipline, Mr Weiss said.