Newsletter April 2014


Welcome to our first newsletter for 2014. The Synapse team has had a busy and productive start to the year and its ‘all systems go’!

This time around we have news on recent developments with Appointmaid, including an excellent example of the crucial importance of having Registered Nurses supporting communications in the office. Medicare is also back in the spotlight with the possibility of co-payments looming large and we include a recent article covering some of the complexities of the MBS along with a call for a solution-focused national conversation.

We have updates for you regarding the new privacy laws which commenced a few weeks back, as well as a rundown of upcoming Synapse appearances at conferences and courses. We continues to expand with the addition of some wonderful new staff members and there is, as usual, a lot ‘Appening with our continual fixes and improvements to Synapps, expansions of our services to you and we’ve also sponsored a very special football team. Read on…

Best wishes,


Margaret Faux
Managing Director
Synapse Medical Services


An even bigger and better Appointmaid

We’ve been beta-testing our Appointmaid software for maximum effectiveness with three clinicians since January and doing the usual tweaks, refinements, improvements and bug fixes during that time. Satisfied that the system is ready for use, we went live on 1 April 2014. Only a few days in and it’s already a hit with our doctors, who have been very complimentary about the user friendly interface, the ability to easily attach referral letters and other documents and the shared calendar. Full credit to Marcus, who programmed the whole system single handed.

We’re also conducting two Appointmaid trials for hospital outpatient departments, one private and one public, both of whom have been quick to realise the considerable benefits of Appointmaid. It’s a familiar story: Synapse takes on all the manual work answering calls and making appointments day-in day-out and the outpatient manager is suddenly free to manage the more urgent work of dealing with clinicians and other team members. Appointmaid’s virtual solutions put your core business back at the forefront where it belongs.

We’re also proving to be handy in an emergency. It’s now very clear that having Registered Nurses in the office is critical to the success of Appointmaid, as this recent situation demonstrates:

‘I’ll just put you through to the nurse…’

Caller: Hi, my daughter has just had an epileptic fit while in the shower. I found her on the floor. She hit her head when she fell. She saw Dr X last year and I think she should see him again.

Gabrielle: ‘I’ll just put you though to the nurse.’

(Caller then speaks with one of our RNs, Monique, who assesses the situation and determines that the caller’s daughter is upset but otherwise OK.)

Meanwhile, quick thinking Gabrielle has contacted one of Dr X’s patients and changed a non-urgent follow up appointment time with him, in order to free up an urgent appointment for the caller’s daughter.

Monique now makes appropriate arrangements to ensure that the caller’s daughter is seen by a doctor straight away.

This situation ended very well and reminded everyone involved that Synapse has great versatility and professionalism to manage the unexpected. Go team Appointmaid! Our skilled and responsive team has the situation in hand.

Give us a call on 1300 510 114 to find out more about Appointmaid or email


Medicare matters

Medicare is headlining once again with the return of the co-payments debate. A comprehensive national discussion about the system’s benefits, complexity and shortcomings is needed now more than ever. Sustainable solutions are possible but we need to be accurately informed. 

Read our clarion call article in the next edition of The Private Practice magazine and join in the conversation. The article is now also available on our website.

Conference circuit

And here’s how you can get further up-to-date on all things Synapse. We’re hitting the road again in 2014 exhibiting at conferences and presenting on the topic of Medicare and Medical Billing at The Private Practice courses. Don’t miss the opportunity to be comprehensively informed on this labyrinthine subject. Here are a few of the current confirmed dates for the first half of the year:

The Private Practice courses:

  • 4 May 2014 – Immunologists and Allergy Physicians, Sydney
  • 23-25 May 2014 – RANZCOG, Melbourne
  • 13-15 June 2014 – Sydney University Medical School


  • Health Informatics Society of Australia, HIC 2014, 11–14 August, Melbourne
  • Australian Society of Anaesthetists 4-7 October 2014, Gold Coast

If you’re attending any of these events please swing by the booth or grab my attention after the presentation (if you can stop me talking for long enough). We look forward to seeing you.

If you aren’t attending yet but would like to, or you are interested in future events you can check out upcoming courses at this link

New Staff

Our special combination of energy, experience, knowledge and communication make Synapse a formidable team. We’ve got several new Synapsers who have recently joined us and the team just keeps getting stronger. Gabrielle is our most recent addition in the role of Client Service Administrator and we’re thrilled to have her.

You can read about Gabrielle and everyone else on the team at this link.


There just seems to be more and more happening with Synapps every month. We can happily report that Synapps is now operating at high capacity and continues to provide all users with an efficient and effective mobile billing solution. We now receive thousands of billings via Synapps every day and will be releasing an update in the next few weeks with improvements including:

  • An updated ‘final check and confirm’ function to help you conduct one last review of key data before pressing send.
  • The ability to easily move patients to other locations.
  • The inclusion of more MBS item number rules to help you stay on track.
  • A fresh new Synapps visual makeover.
  • The usual bug fixes and enhancements.

And just over the horizon is the much anticipated bulk billing function, synching across devices and even the ability to accept credit card payments. Synapps continues to evolve and improve, in response to your needs and feedback, bringing you greater versatility and user friendliness.

If you have any suggestions for improvements, please email them to us on We’re always keen to receive advice from you, our frontline users, on what you need and how we can make your lives less cluttered with admin.

The new Privacy laws are here

You’re no doubt all aware that the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012 came into full force and effect on 12 March 2014.

Specialist privacy lawyers are definitely feeling loved at the moment as they experience unprecedented demand for their services. And to meet my own annual training requirements as well as to ensure Synapses’ compliance, I attended no less than five hours of continuing legal education privacy seminars, presented by specialist privacy lawyers, in early March.

I thought I’d share with you a few of the key insights that are relevant not only to Synapse but to anyone handling health information.

What are the penalties for privacy breaches?

Penalties for privacy breaches can now be up to $1.7m for corporations and $340K for individuals. And given most medical practices operate under corporate structures, it is an area we all need to be taking very seriously. In addition to fines, the Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, has a variety of penalties at his disposal including enforceable written undertakings, which if breached, will be contempt of court.

How should I provide information about my privacy policy?

It depends on the type of information you are collecting. There are two distinct categories of information:

Personal information carries with it a notification requirement. So if you are collecting personal information you must make available your privacy policy by way of notification. This could include informing the person from whom you are collecting the information where they can read your privacy policy if they would like to.

Sensitive information, which includes all health information, requires a higher standard, being active consent. This means that rather than simply notifying the person from whom you are collecting information that a privacy policy is available, you must actually obtain the person’s consent to that policy. This can be done by way of a tick box on a website for example, indicating agreement.

Can I take data outside of Australia?

Yes. Taking data outside of Australia was discussed at length, with data sovereignty being recognised as a major global issue. Data traveling across borders occurs with every press of the ‘send’ button and privacy laws both here and elsewhere have sensibly sought not to prevent the flow of data across borders, but to regulate and control how it is done. Two key provisions in the new legislation require that the person with control of the data must take reasonable steps to ensure the offshore vendor complies with Australian requirements, and the person with control of the data here in Australia is now personally responsible for breaches by the offshore vendor. You can read about the definition of ‘reasonable steps’ at this link

Privacy breach cases, facts and stats

Here are some snippets of privacy breach cases from other jurisdictions, as well as interesting stats and facts that were presented and discussed:

  • The case of the UK politician who would throw letters from complaining constituents into a bin in a park on his way home each evening.
  • The case of a property company who lost a filing cabinet containing payroll details of 37 previous employees.
  • The case of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the UK who sent, by ordinary mail, the entire UK Child Benefit database on two unencrypted disks, which contained the personal information of 25 million people. The disks never arrived at the intended destination and were never found.
  • Thefts of laptops/phones/devices containing unencrypted information are common.
  • A US study which indicated that 9 out of 10 employees would breach privacy.


What steps should I take?

You will need to rewrite your privacy policy as it almost certainly will not accommodate the new laws, if for no other reason than because the National Privacy Principles (NPPs) have been replaced by Australian Privacy Principles (APPs). Any privacy policy stating compliance with the NPPs is now a dead giveaway!

If you haven’t already, start investigating your data flows. Think about data in terms of a life cycle. Look at what you collect and why. Examine how you collect, handle and store information and to whom you disclose it. Are you retaining information for longer that is required? You could also conduct your own internal privacy audit.

If you are routinely emailing unencrypted health data, now is a good time to consider alternative, more secure methods for transmitting this information.

And of course with new risk, came a new business opportunity for the insurance industry. Cyber insurance is now available and is something you may want to explore. It hasn’t achieved a great deal of traction yet, but no doubt will as premiums decrease with increased uptake.

This is by no means all that is required to declare yourself privacy compliant. A great resource to obtain more information and set you on the right track is the OIAC website

What are we doing to ensure privacy compliance?

Synapse has always taken privacy seriously and as part of our ongoing commitment to the privacy and security of your records and those of your patients, we have engaged lawyers specialising in privacy to:

I have already warned the presenting lawyer to be ready for the barrage of questions from the team, especially Gabrielle and Rodney, who are at the coal face answering the phones dealing with hundreds of scenarios that raise privacy issues every day. We’ll let you know how it all goes in the next newsletter.

Synapse supports refugees in sport

Synapse has sponsored the Newington Gunners AAM6 team who will commence playing football in the 2014 competition this weekend. So what’s so amazing about that you might ask – well the team is comprised solely of refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their countries and seeking asylum!

The team came to our attention through a newspaper article (SMH 08/02/2014) discussing the activities of a group of asylum seekers on community detention or with new visas. Many of them were not able to work, volunteer or study as a condition of their community placement and, not willing to sit around at home and stare at the walls, the largely Hazara Afghans, Iranians and Pakistani men joined together to play sport and commence a nightly game. Then one of the local football fans noticed and offered to help.

One thing lead to another and the men couldn’t believe it when, through Settlement Services International (a group that assists refugees with housing and English language courses), they were given a home at the Newington Gunners football club, and then Synapse stepped in by sponsoring their shirts. The club assessed the players speed and agility and placed them in division six. They’re really good!

The coach Eeza Khan (a refugee himself) and his assistant coach have quite a task on their hands, as the only common language is English and the players’ language skills are still developing. So when Eeza gives instructions to the team like “quick, get back there’s a counter attack!” a Babel-like set of translation chains can be heard across the park as the team scramble back to defend.

We’re excited about supporting the boys and will keep you updated with photos and score results throughout the season, but for the meantime …. GOOOOOO Gunners!

So that’s all from us for now. There’s a lot more to come this year, including new services and systems to support your practice and make your life easier. Watch this space.

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