POLAR

Introduction

Our SEMPHN POLAR webpage (semphn.org.au/polar) offers a range of information, documents and resources aimed at self-learning for general practice staff. Please browse and enjoy.

POLAR BEAR

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 and finding answers. POLAR is as open as possible in its structure aiming to help you find simple to complicated answers to questions specific to your general practice:

  • What can my practice data tell me?
  • When can my practice data be most effective?
  • Where can my practice improve?
  • Why is this happening at my practice?
  • Which patients groups can inform my recalls / reminders?

Example question, ask POLAR, "how many of my regular patients have a current chronic disease diagnosis of diabetes, are currently prescribed a metformin-based diabetes medication, and in the last 12 months had a high blood sugar test result?

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 improvement 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  
Nurses  
Practice Managers  
Business & Operations Managers  
Receptionists    

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.

Brochure

Feel free to download the POLAR brochure for more details.

polar handout brochure


Would you like to see more?

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 in-practice and hands-on 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: POLAR 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.

POLAR Data Security and Privacy Outcome Health  POLAR data sharing agreement Research  POLAR data sharing agreement Non Research  POLAR Requirements Checklist 2020  POLAR A3 GP Poster option 1 for reception area  POLAR A3 GP Poster option 2 for reception area


Support

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.

polar brochure


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.

polarexplorer

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 reports (polarexplorer.org.au). For example, under the Clinic Summary report, the practice principal and practice manager can see MBS items and numbers and revenue, while nurses can be restricted to seeing MBS items and numbers only and not MBS 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

The POLAR Quick Start User Guide shows you how to login to and navigate around the software including highlighting its power and flexibility. The guide provides information about the POLAR interface, the first steps, hints and tips, how to use filters, and troubleshooting.

POLAR quick start user guide

The Clinic Summary report and its Dashboard page is used as an example to help outline POLAR's functionality, filtering and search capabiliy, and subtle nuances. Below is the Dashboard page displaying information relating to the practice such as PIP-QI data compliance status, and Care Plan summary. Other graphs show useful practice informaiton such as New Patients by Month and Returning Patients by Month, and clinical information including HARP; CVD; and APRI (Liver Cirrhosis).

clinic summary report dashboard page 2020

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..


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 Your 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

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

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

Note: Total Patient Counts are BLUE and Active Patient Counts are RED. Apply the filter so BLUE and RED counts are the same.

Quality Page Patient Status Active

Step 2 Understanding Your 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.

Quality page RACGP Active

Step 3 Benchmarking Your 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 QI Benchmarking and Tracking, PIP QI, & Word Training section further below.

The best option to benchmark and track your quality improvement over time (while we wait for a POLAR snapshot function) is to copy (print screen or snipping tool) and paste screenshots of your POLAR pages into Microsoft Word document and save this to a centralised network folder called POLAR. The following document provides steps on how to quickly and easily screenshot important patient data (including date and time).

POLAR Data QI and Screenshots using Word

Step 4 Managing Your 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.

BP Inactivate Patients  MD Inactivate Patients  POLAR Blank

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 section below.

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.

POLAR vs Practice Sofware: Help menu > Data mapping for this page

POLAR has extensive data mapping for pages within its reports to compare where the data should be entered in your practice software so it shows up in POLAR.

For example, go to Clinic Summary report > Diagnosis page > Help menu > select Data mapping for this page, using your POLAR login details opens into Outcome Health's POLAR resources website called Confluence.

help data mapping for this page full

In the POLAR Mapping section of Confluence you will select your practice software and then be presented with information for that page including Definitions, Calculation and Logic, Source in clinical system, and screenshots showing where to enter patient data so that it can show up in POLAR.

diabetes confluence

Always Use: Patient Status > Active filter

Prior to starting any data analysis in the Clinic Summary report, under Filters, set the Patient Status filter as Active. For details about a definition of an Active Patient, see above Recommended Starting PointStep 1 Defining Your Active Patients.

patient status active

Search & Filter: SELECT and Background Colours

When searching and filtering patient data using the search magnifying glass, you will notice the data may have several background colours denoting the filtered status of the data, that is, whether or not it belongs to or selected for the patient cohort under investigation.

  • 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 - the remaining unselected patient data will remain with a LIGHT GREY background
  • Unrelated patient data will have a DARK GREY background (selecting this may automatically clear any selected filters)

For example, type the diagnosis keyword of Diabetes, and unselected and related patient data is shown with a WHITE background, and the unselected and unrelated patient data will be shown with a DARK GREY background.

diabetes no selection 

Using the mouse, select one or more of related patient data with a WHITE background and they will adopt a GREEN background. The unselected and related patient data with a WHITE background will adopt a LIGHT GREY background. The unselected and unrelated patient data will retain a DARK GREY background. Click the green tick box to lock in your selection.

diabetes individual selections 

Search & Filter: Save Time with ENTER KEY to SELECT ALL

Save time when searching and filtering patient data using the magnifying glass function by using the ENTER KEY on your keyboard as a SELECT ALL function (instead of using your mouse to select one or more patient data).

For example, type the diagnosis keyword of diabetes and the related and unselected patient data with a WHITE background will be shown, now press the ENTER KEY on your keyboard (SELECT ALL function) and this patient data adopts a GREEN background. The unselected and unrelated patient data will retain a DARK GREY background. Click the green tick box to lock in your selection.

diabetes enter to select all age

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.

snowflake.151046.144104

Google Chrome > Ellipsis (3 vertical dots) > Settings > Advanced > Privacy and security > Clear browsing data > Advanced tab > Time range > All time > 'Browsing history' & 'Download history' & 'Cookes and other site data' & 'Cached images and files' tickboxes > Clear data button > close and reopen Google Chrome > polarexplorer.org.au

chrome settings      chrome clear browsing history

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..

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.

Recently upgraded to BP Jade SP1 or BP Jade SP2?

Have you upgraded to Best Practice Jade SP1 or Jade SP2 recently?

If you upgraded to BP Jade SP1, you may need to reset your bpsrawdata account and password to continue using POLAR. Please contact us to confirm the next steps on 03 8514 4460 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you upgraded to BP Jade SP2, you need to select Outcome Health (POLAR) in BP to continue using POLAR - see BP Jade SP2 or later - POLAR connection instructions for details. Please contact us when you have completed these instructions 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

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)

  • November 2019 (coming soon) -
  • 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

POLAR Walkthrough documents are short step-by-step guides designed to help you perform common and not so common patient data searches in POLAR (polarexplorer.org.au). Filtering patient data in POLAR allows you to look for specific information about defined patient cohorts.

Walkthroughs

The following POLAR Walkthroughs relate to patient data in the Clinic Summary (CS) report, and the Clinical Indicators (CI) report.

The following POLAR Walkthroughs relate to the Cancer Council (cancer.org.au) with a focus on screening patients for bowel, and breast cancer

The following POLAR Walkthroughs relate to the Life! Program (lifeprogram.org.au) with a focus on screening patients for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke

Please note: using the Clinical Indicators report, under Exclusion Filters, always select a Date within the category that you are filtering, e.g. for Immunisations, select Immunisation Type, and Immunisations Date Range.

Contact us if you would like assistance with these walkthroughs, or would like us to create a new walkthrough.

Bookmarks

Each POLAR report has bookmark functionality. You can use the predefined POLAR bookmarks (e.g. POLAR - Data Quality - smoking status). You can use one of the above walkthroughs to create your own bookmarks (using Create Bookmark from Current Selections) and stored under your POLAR account.

diabetes bookmarks

Contact us if you would like assistance with bookmarks, or would like us to help you to create a new bookmark.


Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycles

Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle is a four-stage problem-solving plan used for quality improvement of practice processes.

We have created ready-made and easy to use PDSA cycle templates to help you with ongoing quality improvement for common data items requiring regular tracking and management. These templates break down the data quality improvement topics into manageable tasks, and have strategies to help implement, measure and manage process quality improvement.

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

Patient Demographics Recorded PDSA cycle

These PDSA cycles will help you to find the missing data for the nine patient demograhics including Age, Gender, Postcode, Suburb, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Ethnicity, Emergency Contact, Next of Kin, and Social History

Clinical Metrics Recorded PDSA cycle

These PDSA cycles will help you to find the missing data for the six patient clinical metrics including Alcohol, Smoking, Allergy, Allergy Reaction, BMI, and Family History

  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Alcohol (docx) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Alcohol (pdf) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Smoking (docx) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Smoking (pdf) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Allergy (docx) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Allergy (pdf) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Allergy Reaction (docx) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Allergy Reaction (pdf) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing BMI (docx) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing BMI (pdf) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Family History (docx) - coming soon
  • PDSA-Patient Demographics Recorded - Missing Family History (pdf) - coming soon

Standardise Diabetes GP Diagnosis PDSAs

Standardise Any GP Diagnosis PDSAs


Patient Lists, Patient Broadcast SMS, & Excel Training

POLAR exports Patient Lists to Microsoft Excel prior to printing. The Patient List can be used to inform patient recalls and reminders, and to undertake quality improvement activities.

patient list

Patient Lists (Export, Format and Print with Excel)

Once exported to Excel, you can further filter, format and print (with gridlines) your Patient List. 

POLAR Patient Lists Export Format Print using Excel

Patient Broadcast SMS

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 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.

Hot Doc Instructions

The following instructions will step you through uploading your Patient List.csv file to send patient SMS using Hot Doc:

  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

Other Vendors

The following vendors do not currently support a Patient List upload function, and require reminders to be set for individual patients in your practice software to use their SMS functionality:

  • HealthEngine
  • Appointuit

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, & 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 to Word)

The best option for benchmarking and tracking your practice's quality improvement over time (while we wait for a POLAR snapshot-history function) is to copy (print screen keyboard button, or snipping software) and paste screenshots of your POLAR pages into Microsoft Word documents, and save these to a centralised network folder called POLAR.

The following document provides steps on how to quickly and easily screenshot important patient data, along with the data and time without any extra steps.

POLAR Data QI and Screenshots using Word

PIP QI

Our SEMPHN Quality Improvement webpage has detailed information about the Practice Incentive Payments (PIP) Quality Improvement (QI) incentive requirements.

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

For details about data mapping in POLAR, under Use Tips section above, see POLAR vs Practice Software: Help menu > Data mapping for this page.

Word Training Videos (YouTube)

Contact us if you would like assistance with your Quality Improvement benchmarking and tracking and Screenshots to Word.


Frequently Asked Questions


POLAR

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.

 POLAR 
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.


SNOMED

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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