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UC-designed ‘pod’ provides patients’ health report in waiting rooms

Marcus Butler

29 June 2016: Patients will soon be able to get a snapshot of their general health at their doctor's waiting room, even before seeing their GP, thanks to a University of Canberra research project. 

The Ochre Health Medical Centre at the University of Canberra's Health Hub is the trial site for the UC-designed automated 'pod' project, which collects basic health information for doctors while patients wait for their appointment.

The Patient EmPowerment Pod (healthpod) will collect a range of data, including the patient's height, weight and any lifestyle risk behaviours, such as smoking, drinking and physical activity levels.

University of Canberra adjunct associate professor and lead GP at Ochre Health, Paresh Dawda, said an automated system of this kind will assist doctors in gathering relevant information about their patients and free up time during the consultation process. 

"The information gathered by the healthpod system will be presented to patients as a health 'report card' which they can then take to discuss the results with their doctor," Dr Dawda said.

"A recent study in Canberra found that GP clinic databases are largely incomplete and have missing patient information. Now, patients at Ochre Health's clinic at the University of Canberra Health Hub will be able to use the pod, while waiting for their GP appointment, taking only a few minutes.

"We hope that this innovative project will help improve the quality of clinical data and empower patients to ask questions about their own health. If successful, we might use these pods in our other GP surgeries," he said.

UC-HRI director Professor Rachel Davey said having basic health and lifestyle information for a patient on hand is a great advantage for a doctor's initial assessment.

"Using information like weight, height and other basic health-related questions can help a doctor assess the patient's risk of developing chronic conditions," Professor Davey said.

The University's research team developing the healthpodsystem included experts in industrial design, information technology, primary health care and public health, and Professor Davey said there's been a strong commitment to collaboration on this project.

"It's been great to see an integrated approach from various disciplines towards an innovative solution to improve health outcomes," she said.

"We're hoping that the success of the healthpod might encourage a wider rollout to other Ochre clinics or potentially to other GP service providers."  

Returning patients will also be able to complete a quick survey about using the healthpod, and whether it prompted useful discussions with their doctor.

The research has been funded with a $59,800 through the HCF Research Foundation and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. It is being undertaken inpartnership with UC-HRI, Ochre Health and CSIRO's Data61.