Data from general practices across New South Wales and Victoria is being compiled to build a real-time reporting system that shows where and how COVID-19 is impacting Australia's health system.
The project is led by the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), which is comprised of three Primary Health Networks in Eastern Melbourne, Gippsland, and South Eastern Melbourne, along with Macquarie University, Outcome Health, and the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia.
South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network CEO Dr Elizabeth Deveny said the project will use the data to guide the group's decision-making. It will comprise de-identified data from 500 practices.
"COVID-19 has shown us how fast things can change in a health environment," she said. "General practice is at the forefront of the pandemic impacts, including consults with positive and negative patients. They see the indirect health consequences to social isolation and social distancing, including a rise in substance abuse, family violence, mental health issues.
"General practice is seeing a whole separate pandemic that is running in parallel to COVID-19."
Deveny said the data collected during the project will go back to general practice participants in regular reports and via data dashboards. It is expected data will comprise medications prescribed, the number of tests ordered or carried out, and referrals made, in addition to identifying COVID-19 hot-spots.
"We will look at recent trends and near real-time data to see the impact of COVID-19 on different areas of care," Professor Andrew Georgiou from the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University added.
"Surveys only provide a snapshot; but with data that's near real-time, not only can we pick things up almost immediately, we also get a far bigger dataset over a period of time so we can analyse with much greater statistical confidence."
Georgiou's team will use machine learning to investigate emerging patterns.
With over 16,700 current cases of COVID-19 in Victoria at the time of publication, the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has announced expanding the rollout of electronic prescriptions across greater Melbourne.
Electronic prescribing has been rolling out in GPs and community pharmacies across Australia since May in a "managed approach". However, the crisis in Victoria has pushed the organisations involved to speed up the process to allow doctors and pharmacists to access the new tech faster.