Our POLAR webpage offers a range of information, documents and resources aimed at self-learning for general practice staff. Please browse and enjoy. 


Practice data equals practice insight

POLAR stands for Population Level Analysis & Reporting. POLAR software 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.

Ask questions and get answers

Data analysis is all about asking questions and finding answers. POLAR is as open as possible in its structure aiming to help you find answers to questions specific to your general practice:

  • 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?
  • Which - which patients groups can inform my recalls / reminders?

You can analyse your data to identify gaps in patient care, allocate resources and clinicians accordingly, and build on your clinical strengths including in the areas of quality and safety.

POLAR makes your routine data analysis straight forward, simple, and useful.

Designed for general practice staff

POLAR is designed specifically for and is suitable for use by all general practice staff:

 Clinical BusinessAccreditation
Practice Principals
General Practitioners  
Practice Managers  
Business & Operations Managers  

CPD and Self-directed Learning

You may be eligible to earn Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points for self-directed learning by using POLAR

  • clinical audits
  • PDSAs
  • research
  • quality improvement reflection
  • ongoing data cleaning

Please contact your relevant professional organisation (RACGP, APNA, ANMFAAPM) to discuss any eligibility.

No cost software

SEMPHN provides POLAR software at no cost (100% subsidised) for general practices of all sizes within the SEMPHN catchment.

Feel free to download the POLAR brochure for more details.

Would you like to see more?

Would you like a demonstration of POLAR?

Contact the Digital Health team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or directly on 03 8514 4460 to book a comprehensive demonstration.

Signup documentation

POLAR sign up documentation

Step 1: Data Security and Privacy document - download and read. Call us if you have any questions.

Step 2: Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement (option 1 for Research) or Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement (option 2 for Non-Research) documents - download, print, complete and scan your choice of option 1 or option 2 - your choice depending on whether you would like your de-identified data to be made available for research.

Step 3: Minimum Technical Requirements Checklist document - download and complete - this helps us with your POLAR installation. Ask your ICT provider for assistance.

Step 4: Attach your completed documents from Step 2 and Step 3 and email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Step 5: A3 GP Poster (option 1 for reception area) or A3 GP Poster (option 2 for reception area) documents - download, print and display in your reception area - option 1 or option 2 - your choice. Call us and we can send you a printed version.


We provide software support for POLAR issues, updates, advice, requests, onsite and remote training, and documentation.

For POLAR support contact the Digital Health team directly on 03 8514 4460 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We remotely install and support POLAR software. When asked by a member of our team, click the POLAR Remote Support blue rectangular box (below) to download our remote support software (TeamViewer).

Teamviewer logo POLAR

Support Brochure (DL size card) lists the POLAR support details and compatible browsers. Keep this support brochure handy when using POLAR. Call us and we can send you a printed version.

Accounts & Logins

POLAR access requires your practice users to have an individual user account. After returning the POLAR Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement signed by your general practice's authorised person (POLAR Authoriser) and a witness, we create their account as well as one for your general practice's nominated administrator (POLAR Administrator). Your authorised person and nominated administrator can be the same person.

Your POLAR Administrator can setup and manage your POLAR user accounts for any staff member and allow or restrict access to revenue information in individual POLAR reports using the POLAR program polarexplorer.org.au website. For example, under the Clinic Summary report, the practice principal and practice manager can see MBS item numbers and revenue, while nurses can be restricted to seeing MBS item numbers only and not revenue.

Details for setting up and managing accounts (including resetting passwords) are covered in the resources below.

Contact us if you need help setting up and managing your general practice's accounts, including restricting access.

Quick Start User Guide

If you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to contact us for assistance directly on 03 8514 4460 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To download a copy of the Quick Start User Guide, click here.

Recommended Starting Point

Active & RACGP Active patients

Managing active patients in your practice software is an important data quality improvement activity that is designed to save time, money and resources. This activity ensures you engage with and support your regular patients instead of those patients no longer attending your practice.

The following steps are our recommended starting point.

Step 1 Defining Active Patients

Question: Why keep patient records 'Active' (not deceased or inactive) in your practice software?

Many practices using recalls define an active patient as having at least 1 visit in 3 years

Your practice should adopt its own active patient definition. When considering a definition, take into account those patients who only attended for a single reason, for example:

    • To maintain cervical screening recalls (once every five years) you may define an active patient as having at least 1 visit in 6 years
    • For transient populations you may define an active patient as having at least 1 visit in 6 months

Some practices are adopting a dual definition because of cervical screening, for example:

    • Female active patient as having at least 1 visit in 6 years
    • Male (and other gender) active patient as having at least 1 visit in 3 years 

See Step 4 (below) on how to inactivative patients who fall outside your adopted definition.

To set your Patient Status filter as Active to see your active patients:

    • Clinic Summary report > FILTERS > Patient > Patient Status > Active > [click the green tick box] (do this each time prior to using) - Total Patient Counts are BLUE and Active Patient Counts are RED. Apply the filter so BLUE and RED counts are the same.
    • Clinical Indicators report > this filter is automatically applied - Active Patient Counts are BLUE

Note: some practices have business models whereby they do not to adopt an active patient definition.

Step 2 Understanding RACGP Active patients

Question: What is the RACGP definition of an active or regular patient?

RACGP defines RACGP Active or regular patients as having at least 3 visits in 2 years

RACGP Active Patient filter in POLAR is used by accredited practices for patient health and data quality improvement purposes.

To set your RACGP Active Patient filter in POLAR:

    • Clinic Summary report > FILTERS > Patient > RACGP Active > Active > [click the green tick box]
    • Clinical Indicators report > Inclusion Filters tab > Demographics & Lifestyle tab > RACGP Active > Active > [click the green tick box]

Step 3 Benchmarking Practice Data

For guidance on benchmarking your practice data for quality improvement, for example, when using POLAR's Clinic Summary report's Quality page, see Data Quality Improvement, Mapping & Word Training section further below.

Step 4 Updating Active Patient Count

Keep your Active Patient Count updated by periodically inactivating patients, individually or in bulk, in your practice software according to your active patient definition.

Step 5 Documenting and Tracking Quality Improvement

For guidance on documenting your practice data for quality improvement, see the Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle templates.

After updating your practice software, wait for your POLAR to update (usually 24 to 48 hours), and repeat Steps 3 and Steps 4, as required, to help track your practice data for quality improvement.

Use Tips

POLAR has several important functions that are not always obvious to a user. We have outlined some of these important functions below.

Always Use: Patient Status Active filter

Prior to starting any data analysis in the POLAR Summary report, set the Patient Status filter as Active. See Step 1 Define your Active Patient above for details.

Search & Filter: Background Colours

When filtering for patients in POLAR using the search magnifying glass, you will notice the data will have a background colour denoting if the data belongs to the filtered patient cohort.

For example, in the Clinic Summary report, under the Diagnosis page, select Active Patients and click the heading of the GP Diagnosis table to bring up the search magnifying glass.

  • All unselected and related patient data will have a WHITE background
  • Using your mouse and selecting one or more patient data with a WHITE background will turn them a GREEN background - the unselected patient data with a WHITE background will turn them a LIGHT GREY background
  • Selecting other related patient data with a LIGHT GREY background will turn them a GREEN background
  • Unrelated patient data will have a DARK GREY background (selecting this may automatically clear any selected filters)

filters white and dark grey  filters green and light grey and dark grey 

Search & Filter: Use Enter Key to Select All

When filtering for patients in POLAR using the search magnifying glass, to select all the related data with a white background, press the Enter key on your keyboard (prior to using your mouse for any selections). Alternatively, use your mouse to individually select the data of any coloured background.

Data Mapping: POLAR & Practice Software

POLAR mapping webpage provides detailed mapping information on where data is entered / located in your practice software, e.g. Past History Condition / Diagnosis (Patient record), and after extraction is displayed in a POLAR report, e.g. SNOMED Diagnosis (Diagnosis page) - just login with your POLAR username and password.

Browser Version Only: Delete Old Desktop Icons

The new POLAR browser version is accessed at polarexplorer.org.au using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers. Please delete any older POLAR GP desktop icons from your computer.

Spinning Snowflake 

If clicking on a POLAR report and you experience a continuously Spinning Snowflake, then clear your browser's cache (memory) and restart your browser.


In Google Chrome > click Ellipsis (Customise and control Google Chrome) > click Settings > scroll down and click Advanced > under Privacy and security > click Clear browsing data > click Advanced tab > click Time range and select All time > tick All boxes > click Clear data button > Quit Google Chrome. Reopen Google Chrome and try again.

If the problem persists do not hesitate to contact us for assistance directly on 03 8514 4460 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Training Videos and Q&A Webinars

Training videos and Q&A Webinars are recorded by Outcome Health and provide a great self-learning opportunity to understand the power of POLAR.


Training videos are short YouTube* videos covering specific POLAR functionaility

Q&A Webinars

POLAR Q&A Webinars are YouTube* videos covering new POLAR use and functions interspersed with user Questions & Answers (Q&As)

  • October 2019 (coming soon) - 
  • September 2019 (55:48) - PIP QI and other updates
  • August 2019 (56:00) - PIP QI and updates
  • July 2019 (55:17) - POLAR updates
  • June 2019 (59:29) - PIP QI draft; Clinical Indicators update; WALRUS preview; data mapping for practice software and POLAR
  • May 2019 (53:56) - Data Quality page, new Filters-Pregnancy & Transgender, new Calendar search
  • April 2019 (51:20) - POLAR May 2019 release preview
  • March 2019 (48:56) - Care Planning-Health Assessments & Cervical Screening BETA pages, Ethnicity, HARP, more...
  • October 2018 (54.51) - Discusses chronic disease and chronic disease categories
  • September 2018 (55:55) - Discusses the newly released POLAR upgrades
  • April 2018 (1:07:30) - New POLAR browser version and other new functionality, menus, tips & tricks
  • March 2018 (1:05:11; talking starts at 3:03) - New POLAR browser version & menus, new pre-defined bookmarks

*Note: if the resolution of the YouTube videos is too low, click the Settings 'cog' icon at the bottom of the video, select Quality and choose the highest resolution available. Times format shown represents mm:ss and h:mm:ss.

There are POLAR Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) further down this page to explain more about POLAR.

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 the POLAR Explorer website polarexplorer.org.au, access POLAR Reports, and manage POLAR Accounts.

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.

Clinical Indicators Report

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 a walkthrough to be added..

Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle

Do you know what a Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle is?

PDSA is a four-stage problem-solving plan used for improving a process or carrying out change.

The PDSAs are for Quality Improvement and a few common items that benefit from being regularly managed. They are easy to follow, have strategies to help implement and measure a change, and section the data quality improvement topics into manageable chunks.

Why not have a look at the first PDSA and give it a go (don't forget to print off the corresponding walkthrough).

Demographics Recorded PDSAs

Walkthrough for missing demographic data - Quality Improvement

Clinical Metrics Recorded PDSAs

Walkthrough for missing clinical data - Quality Improvement

Standardise Diabetes GP Diagnosis PDSAs

Walkthrough to standardise the GP diagnosis of Diabetes in the practice software

Standardise Any GP Diagnosis PDSAs

Walkthrough to standardise GP diagnosis in practice software

Patient Lists, Broadcast SMS to Patients, & Excel Training

POLAR exports Patient Lists to Microsoft Excel prior to printing. Once exported to Excel, you can filter, format and print your Patient List for appropriate use, including informing patient recalls and reminders.

Patient Lists (Export, Format and Print with Excel)

Broadcast SMS to Patients

The POLAR Patient List may be uploaded to your 'online appointment' software for sending of customised broadcast SMS reminder messages to your patients. You will need to save your Patient List file as a .csv file extension (instead of .xlsx) using Excel (i.e. Patient List.xlsx to Patient List.csv).

The following instructions will step you through uploading your Patient List.csv file to your 'online appointment' software to prepare and send SMS:

  1. In POLAR, under Patient List menu, click 'Export to Excel' button to create your patient.xlsx file
  2. In Excel, open your file patients.xlsx and save as patients.csv
  3. Highlight and copy the BOLDED heading (below) according to your clinical software (without spaces)
    • Best Practice = INTERNALID
    • Medical Director = PATIENT_ID
    • Zedmed = FILE_NUMBER
  4. In Excel, open your patients.csv file, edit Cell A1, delete ID heading and paste the BOLDED heading (e.g. for Medical Director copy and paste PATIENT_ID) - save and close the file. NOTE: DO NOT PASTE THE BOLDED HEADING OVER THE ID HEADING AS THE DATA MAY NOT IMPORT INTO HOT DOC
  5. Click and follow the Hot Doc: How to upload a CSV file instructions
  • HealthEngine: (does not support the Patient List upload function)

Note: the POLAR Patient List includes patient ID and mobile number from your practice software. The patient ID number allows you to customise the message with the patient's name, and may automatically respect the patient's SMS opt-out preference.

Contact your online appointment software vendor to see if they offer a patient list upload functionality.

Excel Training Videos (YouTube)

Contact us if you would like assistance with your Patient Lists and Export to Excel.

Data QI Benchmarking & Tracking, PIP QI, Data Mapping, & Word Training

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.

Data QI Benchmarking & Tracking (Screenshots with Word)

Screenshots of POLAR sheets and pasting into Microsoft Word is an easy way to help you benchmark and 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.

PIP QI Report & Information

This PIP QI Dashboard Walkthrough is a step-by-step guide to the new POLAR PIP QI report.

Our SEMPHN Quality Improvement page has information about the PIP QI requirements.

Data Mapping

Outcome Health's POLAR mapping webpage provides detailed mapping information on where data is entered / located in your practice software, e.g. Past History Condition / Diagnosis (Patient record), and after extraction is displayed in a POLAR report, e.g. SNOMED Diagnosis (Diagnosis page) - just login with your POLAR username and password. This access is also available via polarexplorer.org.au.

Word Training Videos (YouTube)

Frequently Asked Questions


Why use POLAR ?

POLAR  is useful for insight and planning across clinical and business and accreditation for general practices of all sizes.

POLAR  allows your general practice to:

  • Access and review patient cohorts
  • 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 
  • Replace “out of license” data analysis software

Does the RACGP support analysing patient data to improve patient care?

In their advice on using data for better health outcomes the RACGP says “Using data to understand population health helps paint a picture of the overall wellbeing of a community. Data can highlight differences in health status between social groups and can help determine what approaches need to be prioritised. With advances in technology, general practices are able to capture and analyse health data more efficiently and without additional costs.”

Who can use POLAR ?

POLAR  is suitable for use by all general practice staff, including practice principals, general practitioners, nurses, practice managers, business managers and admin staff.

How does POLAR work?

POLAR performs a data collection (extracts changed data) from the practice software every five minutes. The identified and de-identified practice data is encrypted using industry endorsed algorithms similar as those used in the health, banking and e-commerce sectors. The encrypted identified data is stored locally with the POLAR software.

The encrypted de-identified data is uploaded directly to the POLAR data warehouse (located in Australia). Overnight the accumulated de-identified data is build into POLAR Reports and made available for the viewing by the practice the following morning. When POLAR is opened at the practice the locally stored identified data and the de-identified data drawn from the POLAR Data Warehouse are unencrypted locally and matched enabling reports to be viewed and analysed.

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

Clinical and Practice Software Compatibility

Which clinical software is POLAR compatible with?

POLAR is compatible with combinations of clinical notes and practice management software, including:

 Medical Director ClinicalBest Practice ClinicalZedmed 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.

Minimum Technical Requirements

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

See the Minimum Technical Requirements Checklist document under Documentation for more details.

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).

Installation Process

What is the POLAR installation process?

After we receive a general practice’s signed and witnessed POLAR Data Sharing & Licensing Agreement document - either for Research or Non-Research, and their Minimum Technical Requirments Checklist document, we start the install process which can take up to 3 to 5 business days.

POLAR is remotely installed by appointment which is organised between a member of our Digital Health team and the general practice’s nominated person (an authorised staff member or ICT provider).

How long does it take to install POLAR?

POLAR is only installed onto one server or computer within the general practice or cloud environment. POLAR takes about 30 to 60 minutes to install; including the first full data extraction.

In most cases, we do not have to reboot your server or computer during installation. This means no downtime during business hours. Usual practice is to reboot your server or computer anytime, post-installation of any software.

Where can POLAR be installed - on-premises and cloud?

POLAR only needs to be installed onto one server or computer, on-premises (within the general practice) or in a cloud environment - where ever your practice software resides.

Can we involve our ICT provider with the POLAR install?

Ideally, we would work alongside your ICT provider prior to and during the POLAR install process.

What information do I need for the POLAR installation?

Prior to installing POLAR, the general practice's server or computer must meet the Minimum Technical Requirements Checklist - located under Documentation section. Importantly, the server or computer must have a minimum .NET framework of 4.6.2 or above. Your ICT provider can help you with this information.

Best Practice users must have their Best Practice Database Browser (RAW) Password (note: they allow a maximum of 10 alphanumeric characters only).

Zedmed users must have their Zedmed INTEGRATOR Database Password (note: a minimum of 8 alphanumeric characters) and Zedmed Superplus File Directory / Location.

You or your ICT provider should have these details well ahead of your scheduled POLAR install appointment.  

Call our Digital Health Team if you need assistance.

Active & RACGP Active Patients

What is your definition of an Active Patient?

POLAR  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  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”.

Patient Consent and APPs

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 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 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 ?

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 Privacy Policy accordingly (e.g. the section “For what purpose do we collect, hold, use and disclose your personal 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.”

De-identified Data

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 the Humminbird data extraction tool to collect, de-identify and transmit the de-identified patient data to a secure data centre.

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 - our access is restricted to count information only. No private financial information is collected.


What is SNOMED?

SNOMED is the short form for Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine -- Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT). SNOMED is the most comprehensive and precise clinical health terminology product in the world, owned and distributed around the world by SNOMED International. SNOMED has been developed collaboratively to ensure it meets the diverse needs and expectations of clinicians worldwide and is now accepted as a common global language for health terms. Patients and healthcare professionals benefit from improved health records, clinical decisions and analysis, leading to higher quality, consistency and safety in healthcare delivery.

Source: https://www.snomed.org/snomed-ct (Accessed 26/09/2018)

What are SNOMED Clinical Terms?

SNOMED CT (Clinical Terms) are structured vocabularies (terminologies) covering complex concepts such as diseases, operations, treatments and medicines. Clinical terminologies can be used in clinical practice to aid health professionals with more easily accessible and complete information regarding medical history, illnesses, treatments, laboratory results, and similar facts.

SNOMED CT-AU and the Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT) is used in Australia. The National Clinical Terminology Service (NCTS), operated by the Australian Digital Health Agency, is responsible for managing, developing and distributing national clinical terminologies and related tools and services to support the digital health requirements of the Australian healthcare community. This responsibility includes being the Australian National Release Centre for SNOMED CT® on behalf of the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO).

https://www.digitalhealth.gov.au/get-started-with-digital-health/what-is-digital-health/clinical-terminology (Accessed 26/09/2018)

GP Diagnosis & SNOMED

What is a GP Diagnosis?

General practitioners can select from within their general practice software standard coded diagnoses, or add in and use free text diagnoses for use in a patient file. POLAR extracts all the diagnosis variations from general practice software and presents it in the searchable GP Diagnosis graph on the Diagnosis page.

For example, some standard coded diagnosis choices for diabetes Type 2 could be Diabetes Mellitus - Type II; or Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2. However, free text diagnosis can take many forms like (including spelling errors)

  • Diabetes Mellitus - NIDDM
  • Diabetes;Type 2
  • Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
  • NIDDM (Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus)
  • Diabetes Type 2
  • Daibetes Type 2
  • Diabetes II requiring insulin
  • Diabetes, Type 2
  • Diabetes; non insulin depend

POLAR presents all standard and non-standard (free text) diagnosis variations under the GP Diagnosis graph. POLAR makes the difficult task of searching for all variations of a GP Diagnosis easier by mapping it to SNOMED.

How is GP Diagnosis mapped to SNOMED?

POLAR maps 'known' variations of GP Diagnoses to SNOMED diagnoses. To do this, POLAR takes all of the text from the GP Diagnosis field, regardless of whether it is coded or free text. A SNOMED diagnosis search will yield more patients, e.g. Diabetes, than a similar search using GP Diagnosis search because of the mapping results of the standard and non-standard (free text) GP Diagnosis.

GP Diagnosis free text field is sometimes used by general practitioners to record information not related to a diagnosis including patient names. For example, "Mrs Smith brought me some tomatoes from her garden"; or "He had a motorcycle accident". POLAR does not map this type of 'diagnosis' to SNOMED. To preserve patient privacy, as a precaution POLAR does not map to SNOMED any GP Diagnosis that has a count of less than 10. It is very unlikely that a general practitioner would regularly enter a patient name into a GP Diagnosis field, and select it repeatly.

Outcome Health estimates, as of September 2018, 87% of GP Diagnoses have been mapped as a SNOMED diagnosis. Approximately 13% of GP Diagnosese are unmapped. Of the unmapped, 9% represent GP Diagnosis counts under 10; primarily to protect patient privacy. POLAR is continuously mapping new GP Diagnoses as SNOMED diagnoses.The other 4% of GP Diagnoses are under going analysis and mapping and will be released when ready.

Practices can use POLAR to review their own GP Diagnoses, and undertake data quality activities, to improve their SNOMED diagnoses. SEMPHN only has access to SNOMED diagnoses to protect patient privacy.

Pathology & Radiology (LOINC) & SNOMED

What is LOINC?

Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) is a common language (set of identifiers, names, and codes) for identifying health measurements, observations, and documents. If you think of an observation as a "question" and the observation result value as an "answer."

The scope of LOINC is anything you can test, measure, or observe about a patient. The two major divisions of the content in LOINC are Laboratory and Clinical. LOINC codes are intended to identify the test result or clinical observation. Other fields in the message can transmit the identity of the source laboratory and special details about the sample.

LOINC was developed to provide a definitive standard for identifying clinical information in electronic reports. The LOINC database provides a set of universal names and ID codes for identifying laboratory and clinical test results in the context of existing HL7 ... observation report messages (see https://loinc.org/get-started/what-loinc-is/).

One of the main goals of LOINC is to facilitate the exchange and pooling of results for clinical care, outcomes management, and research. LOINC is used in around 172 countries. (https://loinc.org/, accessed 17/10/2018)

Are LOINC and SNOMED compatible?

Regenstrief Institute and SNOMED International (formerly IHTSDO) have formed a long-term collaborative relationship with the objective of developing coded content to support order entry and result reporting.

The two organizations are building closer links between the SNOMED CT and LOINC terminologies, reducing duplication of effort, and making electronic health records more effective at improving health care. By aligning how the two terminologies represent the attributes of laboratory tests and some types of clinical measurements, this collaboration will provide users a common framework within which to use LOINC and SNOMED CT.

In July 2013, Regenstrief and SNOMED International (then known as The International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation, IHTSDO) signed an agreement to begin the cooperative work.

(https://loinc.org/collaboration/snomed-international/, accessed 17/10/2018)

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