March 16, 2023
Picture of Prof Barnett

Onboarding digital health systems is hard. Everyone from administrators, to clinicians, to even patients need to change. It requires significant time and resource investment.

Not only was South Australia’s Commission in Excellence and Innovation in Health able to onboard the Personify system, they streamlined the genomic consent process along the way, ensuring patients are properly informed while maximising consultation time for genomics care.

We asked Professor Christopher Barnett, the Commission’s Statewide Clinical Genomics Lead and Head of the Paediatric and Reproductive Genetics Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, for his top tips on how to successfully implement a digital health system.

Tip #1: Build to adapt

“Think about your service, and what you need,” said Prof Barnett. “Rather than using a prescribed process, we’ve adapted the system to suit our clinical workflow.

“We knew that the consent process – and the type of consent forms – would change for each family. Some families have parents together, some with parents apart.”

“Establishing this need at the outset means we now have a system that we can change and manage at a clinical level, not just at a software developer level.”

Tip #2: Consider who the change affects, and how

In addition to consent, the Paediatric and Reproductive Genetics Unit also use Personify to triage cases and to collect family history – all before they even meet the patient.

This frees up time in the appointment for more care, but needed a degree of bravery from an unexpected group: genetic counsellors.

“Our genetic counsellors had to be accepting about ‘letting go’ of patient intake,” explained Prof Barnett. “Patients still get a pre-appointment phone call, but its centred on counselling rather than documenting background information.”

“Appointing clinical leaders to champion the change really supported the team throughout the process. We also had genetic counsellors, clinical geneticists and admin staff all involved in the set-up and design of the system, so it meets everyone’s needs.”

Tip #3: Clearly communicate the short and long term benefits

Change is hard: “There is a resistance of embracing new systems,” said Prof Barnett. “The admin team initially saw this as more work [for them], but it has saved them so much time in phone calls,”

“Communicating the long-term benefits was key in getting everyone on board. Now, fewer people ring up the service for admin or consent help.”

“The truth is, people need more time than we’ve got, and establishing a digital pathway helps address this shared problem.”

Prof Barnett talks Personify

Professor Christopher Barnett will be speaking in Melbourne on Thursday, 30 March about how the Paediatric and Reproductive Genetics Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital are using Personify together with their hospital data system to digitise patient pathways.

Learn more from Prof Barnett by registering for his seminar on Thursday, 30 March from 1:30-2:30pm at MCRI or via Zoom.


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