Our POLAR page offers a range of documents and resources aimed at self-learning. Please browse and enjoy.
POLAR stands for Population Level Analysis & Reporting. POLAR is useful for insight and planning across the areas of clinical, business and accreditation for general practice. It enables meaningful analysis by general practices of their own identified patient data, which is presented in an easy to use graphical format.
Data analysis is all about asking questions:
- What - what can my practice data tell me?
- When - when can my practice data be most effective?
- Where - where can my practice improve?
- Why - why is this happening at my practice?
Practice data equals practice insight
POLAR is as open as possible in its structure, aiming to help you answer the questions specific to your practice.
POLAR is suitable for use by all general practice staff, including:
SEMPHN provides POLAR free for general practices of all sizes within the SEMPHN catchment.
We provide software support for POLAR issues, updates, advice, requests, onsite and remote training, and documentation.
We remotely install and support POLAR software. When asked by a member of our team, click the POLAR Remote Support blue box (below) to download our remote support software (TeamViewer).
POLAR Program polarexplorer.org.au
POLAR Information semphn.org.au/polar
POLAR documentation is available for use by your practice
- Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement (option 1 for Research).pdf* new 02/2018
- Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement (option 2 for Non-Research).pdf* new 02/2018
- GP A3 poster (option 1 for reception area).pdf new 02/2017
- GP A3 poster (option 2 for reception area).pdf new 02/2017
- Data Security and Privacy (Outcome Health).pdf new 03/2018
- Minimum Technical Requirements Checklist.docx** new 05/2018
Complete and return to us
*one option only sigined by your practice's authorised person (i.e. POLAR Authoriser) and a witness
**information known by your practice or ICT provider
Accounts / Logins
POLAR access requires your practice users to have an individual user account. Upon returning to us the POLAR Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement signed by your practice's POLAR Authoriser (and a witness), we create their account as well as one for your practice's nominated POLAR Administrator (both roles can be the same person).
Your POLAR Administrator manages your practice's POLAR user accounts using the POLAR Explorer website polarexplorer.org.au. You can setup a POLAR user account for any practice staff member. Your POLAR Administrator can allow or restrict access to specific POLAR Reports. For example, you may prefer to allow access only by the practice principal and practice manager to patient billing information in the Clinic Summary Report. You can restrict your nurses to seeing only the patient clinical information in the Clinic Summary Report.
Details about the POLAR processes for setting up and managing POLAR user accounts (including resetting passwords) are covered in the resources below. We recommend you start by viewing the set up guide video.
- POLAR Explorer Management manual.pdf new 02/2017
- POLAR Password Process how to video (Vimeo) Note: portal look and feel in the video may vary slightly
- Using POLAR Explorer.pdf new 05/2018
Contact us if you need help managing your practice's POLAR Authoriser, POLAR Administrator and POLAR user accounts.
Training / webinars
Training videos and recorded webinars provide a great self-learning opportunity to understand the power of POLAR. Outcome Health (OH) record regular webinars about POLAR. The YouTube video links to past webinars are below.
- Webinar (OH) March 16, 2018 (1:05:11) - demonstration of the new POLAR browser version and includes using a Chrome and Firefox web browsers, new menus, new global and predefined walkthrough bookmarks (note: talking starts at 3:03)
- Webinar (OH) April 16, 2018 (1:07:30) - using the new POLAR browser version covers new functionality, menus and tips and tricks.
Note: if the resolution of these webinars (YouTube videos) is too low, click the Settings 'cog' icon at the bottom of the video, select Quality and choose the highest resolution available.
There are POLAR Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) further down this page.
Walkthroughs / bookmarks
Walkthroughs are short step-by-step documents designed to help guide you through performing common and not so common patient data searches in POLAR. Filtering patient data in POLAR allows you to look for specific information about defined cohorts of patients.
Using POLAR Explorer
This walkthrough provides step-by-step guide of how to log into POLAR Explorer website polarexplorer.org.au, access POLAR Reports, and manage POLAR Accounts.
- Using POLAR Explorer.pdf new 05/2018
Clinic Summary Report
For the following data quality and patient data walkthroughs, BP and MD users should use the Clinic Summary report, and check under Bookmarks, and, for the moment, Zedmed users should use the Summary Zedmed report (desktop version).
- Care Plan - find patients with a MH care plan, no review.pdf
- Diabetes - diagnosis coding errors.pdf
- Diabetes - patients without care plans over 12 to 24+ months.pdf
- Diabetes - quality improvement.pdf
- Health assessments - patients without health assessments in a defined group.pdf
- Screening - cervical screening.pdf
Clinical Indicators Report
The Clinical Indicators report is still available but the Patient List does not currently show patient names, only patient ID numbers from the practice software.
- New Walkthroughs for the Clinical Indicators Report are coming soon
Please note: under Exclusion Filters, always select a date within the category that you are filtering, e.g. for Immunisations, select from Immunisation Type AND from Immunisations Date Range).
Contact us if you would like assistance or if you would like to add a walkthrough.
Patient Lists / Excel Training
In POLAR the Patient Lists are printed after 'Export to Excel'. Once exported to Excel, you can filter, format and print your Patient List for use with patient recalls and reminders.
Export Format Print Patient Lists
Excel Training Videos (YouTube)
- The Beginner's Guide to Excel - Excel Basics 2017 Tutorial (21:46) new 05/2018
- Top 25 Excel 2016 Tips and Tricks (27:43) new 05/2018
- Top 15 Advanced Excel 2016 Tips and Tricks (22:06) new 05/2018
Contact us if you would like assistance with your Patient Lists and Export to Excel.
Data Quality Improvement / Word Training / Data Mapping
Data quality improvement (QI) means improving the quality of the data displayed in POLAR which is directly related to the quality of the data entered into your practice software, in other words: garbage in, garbage out.
Screenshots Tracking Data Quality Improvement
Screenshots of POLAR sheets and pasting into Word is an easy way to help you track your contiuing data quality improvement (QI). Regular screenshots can easily and quickly provide important information, for example, patient demographic and clinical quality data, patient cohort filters, and the date and time the information was captured.
Word Training Videos (YouTube)
- Top 25 Word 2016 Tips and Tricks (13:16) new 05/2018
POLAR displays patient data which is extracted from your clinical notes and practice management software. The table in the Clinical and Practice Software Compatibility FAQ section below lists the practice software compatible with POLAR.
To see how data is mapped between the POLAR reports and the point of entry in each practice software, use the following:
- Summary Page > overall total.pdf
- Summary Page > visits by provider.pdf
- Summary Page > visits by day and hour.pdf
- Patient Page > Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander status.pdf
- Patient Page > Age group.pdf
- Patient Page > Ethnicity.pdf
- Patient Page > Gender.pdf
- Patient Page > Pension status.pdf
- Patient Page > Suburb.pdf
More POLAR data mappings will be listed as they become available, or can be found within www.polarexplorer.org.au.
Quick Reference Guide / POLAR starting point
The Quick Reference Guide (shown below) is a general overview of POLAR and points out the important components of the interface. You can also download a copy of the Quick Reference Guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does POLAR work?
The POLAR data extraction tool performs a daily data collection (extract) from the practice software. The practice data is de-identified, and encrypted using industry endorsed algorithms similar as those used in the health, banking and e-commerce sectors. The data is then uploaded to the POLAR data warehouse (in Australia) When POLAR is opened at the practice the data is drawn from the data warehouse, is encyrpted, and re-identifited at the practice enabling reports to be generated.
Who is the developer and custodian of POLAR ?
POLAR software is developed by Outcome Health. Outcome Health are the custodians of the POLAR Data Warehouse. De-identified patient data is securely stored in the POLAR Data Warehouse (in Australia) for population health planning across the SEMPHN catchment.
How do I get POLAR ?
SEMPHN provides POLAR free with free support to all general practices of any size within the SEMPHN catchment.
Who supports POLAR ?
Support for POLAR is provided free by the individual Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
What benefits does POLAR provide SEMPHN?
SEMPHN can use de-identified and aggregated POLAR data to improve population health planning across our SEMPHN catchment. SEMPHN catchment includes the local government areas (LGAs) of Bayside, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Kingston, Mornington Peninsula, Port Philip and Stonnington.
POLAR allows us to:
- Work more closely with and better understand general practice
- Identify community health care needs
- Design better health care services
- Make evidence-based decisions on resource allocations, such as education and training, workshops and seminars, and small grants to incentivise identified service needs
- Feed back to general practices about identified activity and gaps
POLAR GP is compatible with which clinical notes and practice management software?
POLAR GP offers the fullest experience with the following compatible combinations of clinical notes and practice management software, including:
|Medical Director Clinical||Best Practice Clinical||Zedmed Clinical*||Genie*|
|Medical Director Pracsoft||Clinical only||Clinical only*||Clinical only*|
|Best Practice Management||Clinical only||Clinical only*||Clinical only*|
|Zedmed Office*||Clinical only||Clinical only||*||Clinical only*|
|Genie*||Clinical only||Clinical only||Clinical only*||*|
* Coming soon
At this point, POLAR GP does not offer the fullest experience or compatibility with other combinations of clinical notes and practice management software.
What are the minimum technical requirements for POLAR ?
POLAR minimum technical requirements are:
.NET Framework of 4.6.2 or above.
|Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 (64bit)|
|Server 2012 R2, SBS2011, 2008 R2 (must be 64bit)|
|Memory / RAM (minimum useable memory)||4.0GB|
|Storage / Hard Drive (minimum free space)||30GB|
What are the minimum computer monitor size and screen resolution requirements for POLAR ?
POLAR is most compatible on 22” to 24” (measured diagonally) wide-screen (16:9 aspect ratio) computer monitors.
POLAR best displays the graphs and other information with minimum standard screen resolutions of 1366 x 768 pixels (high definition or HD). Other standard screen resolutions are 1600 x 900 (high definition plus or HD+), and 1920 x 1080 (full high definition or FHD).
Screen resolutions will vary between computers, depended upon the capability and age of a computer’s graphics card (also called video or display card).
What is the POLAR GP installation process?
After we receive a general practice’s signed and witnessed POLAR Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement Terms and Conditions document, we apply for their POLAR GP license that can take up to 3 to 5 business days.
Once we receive their POLAR GP license, a member of our eHealth team will make an appointment with the general practice’s nominated point of contact to remotely install POLAR GP. The general practice’s nominated point of contact can be an authorised staff member, or their internal or external ICT service provider.
On the day of the installation appointment, our eHealth team will liaise with the general practice’s nominated point of contact to establish a secure remote access session on each server and computer required for POLAR GP installation.
How long is the POLAR GP installation process?
The installation time of POLAR GP varies between general practices and is dependent upon your ICT environment and the size of your clinical notes and practice management software database.
The GRHANITE data extraction tool installation involves remote accessing the server, downloading and installing the software and completing the first patient data extraction - this process can take between 1 to 3 hours. In most cases, we do not have to reboot your server during installation - meaning no downtime during business hours - you can reboot your server after hours post-installation.
The POLAR GP interface installation involves remote accessing each computer, downloading and installing and testing the software - this process takes about 15 minutes per computer. In most cases we do not have to reboot your computers during installation - meaning no downtime during business hours - you can reboot your computer anytime post-installation.
Where is POLAR GP installed?
POLAR GP interface software can be installed onto any or all general practice computers running a Microsoft Windows 64bit operating system (and NOT a Microsoft Server operating system).
Can POLAR GP be installed into an on-premises-domain and on-premises workgroup?
Yes, POLAR GP can be installed into an on-premises-domain and on-premises workgroup. On-premises-domain means you are running an on-premises server with a Microsoft Server 64bit operating system providing centralised networking to all the computers within your general practice.
On-premises-workgroup means you do not have an on-premises server (nor a Microsoft Server 64bit operating system); instead you use an Internet modem (or similar device) to provide centralised networking to all the computers within your general practice.
Can POLAR GP be installed into a remote desktop services (RDS) environment, previously known as terminal services (TS)?
Yes. POLAR GP can be installed into an on-premises-RDS or Cloud-RDS if installed onto a Microsoft Windows 64bit operating system (and NOT a Microsoft Server operating system).
Remote desktop services (RDS) is formerly known as terminal services (TS). On-premises-RDS means you are running an on-premises-domain with your clinical notes and practice management software installed centrally (usually on a Microsoft Server operating system). You access the on-premises-RDS using a remote desktop protocol (RDP) session from your on-premises workstation.
Cloud-RDS means you are running a Cloud-domain with your clinical notes and practice management software installed centrally (usually on a Microsoft Server operating system located in the Internet or Cloud). You access the Cloud-RDS using a remote desktop protocol (RDP) session from your on-premises workstation.
Do we need to involve our information and communication technology (ICT) service provider with the POLAR GP installation?
We can work alongside your ICT service provider during the POLAR GP installation process.
What information do I need for the POLAR GP installation?
GRHANITE interacts with your clinical notes software to perform the patient data extraction.
Note regarding Best Practice: For GRHANITE to interact with Best Practice you will need to have ready the following two items:
- Best Practice Server Name (the name of the server where Best Practice is installed)
- Best Practice Database Browser (RAW) Password (note: they allow a maximum of 10 alphanumeric characters only)
Contact your internal or external ICT service provider to ensure you have access to these Best Practice details well ahead of your POLAR GP scheduled installation appointment.
GRHANITE interacts with other clinical notes software without any extra requirements.
I use Best Practice; do I need my Best Practice Database Browser (RAW) Password for the POLAR GP installation?
You will need your Best Practice Database Browser (RAW) Password well ahead of time of your POLAR GP scheduled installation appointment.
If you, or your internal or external ICT service providers, do not know your Best Practice Database Browser (RAW) Password, immediately contact the Best Practice helpdesk for details on how to obtain the password.
Please Note: your Best Practice Database Browser (RAW) Password allows for a maximum of 10 alphanumeric characters only.
Why use POLAR GP?
POLAR GP is useful for insight and planning across clinical and business and accreditation for general practices of all sizes.
POLAR GP allows your general practice to:
- Access and review patient data
- Undertake quality improvement and data cleansing
- Improve planning capabilities including internal service needs and health campaigns and patient education
- Inform patient-centred care and improve patient health outcomes
- Identify “at-risk” patients on a range of clinical indicators (coming soon)
- Replace “out of license” data analysis software
What is your definition of an Active Patient?
POLAR GP filters on patient status including Active Patient, Inactive Patient, Deceased Patients and more. If you have not already done so, your general practice should have a definition of an Active Patient - particularly if you have thousands or tens of thousands of Total Patients in your clinical notes and practice management software database.
If accreditation is coming up and you need to clean up your patient data, you can save time by cleaning only Active Patients. POLAR GP finds Active Patients quickly. Many general practices internally define an Active Patient as having one or more attendances in the past two (or three) years - patients attending less than this are made Inactive in their clinical notes and practice management software.
Each general practice is different, and it is important you adopt your own definition of an Active Patient.
What is the RACGP definition of an Active Patient?
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) defines an Active Patient as a patient “who has attended a general practice/service three or more times in the past 2 years”.
Network News 2016
Network News: General practice news and events
What is primary and secondary use of patient data?
In their advice on using data for better health outcomes the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says, “In health care, the primary source of data comes from general practice through clinical care delivery to patients. When this data is used outside of the general practice setting, for purposes other than which it was originally collected, it is referred to as secondary use of data. This includes clinical analysis and research, quality measurement, public health planning and decision-making.”
Do the Australian Privacy Principles allow for general practice patient data use for secondary purposes?
Chapter 6 of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) states that patient data can be used for secondary purposes where “the collection is necessary for research relevant to public health or safety, the compilation or analysis of statistics relevant to public health or public safety, or the management, funding or monitoring of a health service and certain other criteria are satisfied ... and to take reasonable steps to ensure that the information is de-identified” before the information is used.
Is the use of POLAR GP covered under the Australian Privacy Principles?
Yes. The APPs indicate that patient data can be used for the following secondary purposes:
- General practices can use identified patient data internally for data quality and service planning and improvement
- SEMPHN can use de-identified patient data from general practices for population health planning purposes across our catchment
Does the RACGP support general practices using patient data for population health planning?
Yes. In their advice on using data for better health outcomes the RACGP says “Secondary use of data is controlled through legislation, which covers the handling of personal health information to ensure patient privacy is maintained. Data can only be used to provide information to support a population health approach, which aims to improve the health of the entire population and to reduce health inequalities among population groups.”
Do general practices require individual patient consent for using their data for population health planning?
Our interpretation of the APPs regarding the use of POLAR GP is that general practices are not required to obtain individual patient consent to use their identified and de-identified data for the secondary purposes of data quality, service planning and improvement, and population health planning. General practices should still notify their patient cohort that their individual data may be used for these purposes and provide them the opportunity to ‘opt out’.
How do general practices notify their patients about population health planning activities?
We strongly encourage general practices to notify patients that their data could be used for a secondary purpose such as population health planning. We recommend general practices display a poster (links to two options are available in the Support) in their patient waiting room. The poster should also state that patients can request that their data be excluded.
How do we exclude patient data from POLAR GP?
The GRHANITE tool has a function to stop a patient's record from being included in further extractions for use by POLAR. Should a patient ask to be excluded, contact our ehealth team. We could do it for you, or show you or your technical team how it is done.
What else should the general practices do when using patient data for population health planning activities?
General practices using their patient data for secondary purposes such as population health planning should:
- ensure they comply with the RACGP Standards for General Practice (4th Edition), Section four: Practice Management, Standard 4.2 Management of health information
- review and update their patient registration forms accordingly
Does general practice accreditation include the use of patient data for a secondary purpose?
Yes. In their advice on using data for better health outcomes the RACGP says that general practice accreditation “is a recognised peer review process and the reviewing of medical records for accreditation purposes has been deemed as a ‘secondary purpose’ by the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner. As a consequence patients are not required to provide consent.”
Why do we require general practice de-identified patient data?
We use general practice de-identified patient data to better inform our population health planning initiatives and other quality improvement activities across the SEMPHN catchment.
What is considered de-identified patient data?
Chapter 6, Item 6.73 of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) states that “personal information is de-identified ‘if the information is no longer about an identifiable individual or an individual who is reasonably identifiable’”
Who owns the general practice identified patient data?
Each general practice owns their identified general practice patient data.
Who owns the general practice de-identified patient data?
We own the general practice de-identified patient data once it is transferred to the POLAR Data Warehouse.
Outcome Health is the custodian of the general practice de-identified patient data once it is transferred to the POLAR Data Warehouse.
Who has access to the de-identified patient data?
The data in the POLAR Data Warehouse will not be made available to any commercial entity (such as pharmaceutical companies) for marketing purposes.
How do we collect and access a general practice de-identified patient data?
General practices must sign the POLAR Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement (there is a link to the Data Agreement in the Support section) to allow us to have a copy of their de-identified patient data.
Once the agreement is received, we supply and install into each general practice the necessary tools to enable the on-premises collection and storage of patient data, and uploading of de-identified patient data to the POLAR Data Warehouse. We use GRHANITE data extraction tool to collect, de-identify and transmit the de-identified patient data to a secure data centre within the University of Melbourne.
What MBS item information is collected and how is it used?
The POLAR Data Warehouse stores aggregated medical benefits scheme (MBS) item information for use by us in our population health planning across the SEMPHN catchment.
The MBS item information provides aggregated counts of de-identified information including diagnoses, medications, pathology, and risk factors, general practice management plans (GPMPs) / team care arrangements (TCAs), diabetes cycle of care, and health assessments, etc.
We cannot see the MBS item information in the same way as individual general practices do using POLAR GP - our access is restricted to count information only. No private financial information is collected.
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We acknowledge the Kulin Nation who are the traditional custodians of the land our catchment covers. We pay our respects to them, their culture and their Elders past, present and future, and uphold their relationship to this land.
While the Australian Government Department of Health has contributed to the funding of this website, the information on this website does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by the Australian Government. The Australian Government is not responsible in negligence or otherwise for any injury, loss or damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided on this website.