When it comes to IT, government departments are sleeping giants. They rarely move but when they do they take gargantuan leaps. 

In December 2019 Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) took over the running of the Roads & Maritime Service (RMS) and hence the issuance of commercial and private drivers’ licenses. 

The RMS had been gradually rolling out digital licenses since 2017 as part of its drive to increased efficiency, and this continues under TfNSW. Applications for a digital driver's license are accessed through the Service NSW website. 

In a similar drive for increased proficiency TfNSW is also encouraging the renewal or upgrade of licenses through their online service. As a “web service” the renewal can be done any time and at any place. In practice this means it is usually done after hours at home. This is more convenient and efficient, and is encouraged in the era of social distancing under COVID-19.

The eligibility requirements to renew are the standard medical and vision criteria familiar to GPs doing driver medical examinations. The applicant also needs to have a signature and photograph on file with TfNSW that is less than 10.5 years old. In practice this allows for two five year renewals before fronting a Services NSW centre. 

TfNSW has also been working on making the medical and eyesight examinations more efficient by providing a digital pathway for doctors. It has partnered with the electronic messaging provider Healthlink to allow medical practitioners to complete their Fitness to Drive forms online

This facility has been embraced by many general practices as it allows an individualised form for each patient to be downloaded from the TfNSW systems. Patient demographics are taken from the practitioner’s computer system and previous medical conditions from TfNSW’s. This helps ensure accurate information while keeping key entry for the GP to a minimum. 

The software prevents submission of the form if there is incomplete data. It also acknowledges successful registration of the application. A copy is kept on the GP’s computer as well as on file with TfNSW and a paper copy can also be given to the patient for their records. The system has proven very popular with patients and medical practices alike. 

One problem yet to be addressed is the documentation of eyesight status. Any abnormalities outside TfNSW’s acceptable limits need review by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Currently this service is unavailable in the Richmond Valley and the GP has to complete the paper form before the patient takes it to a Service NSW centre for registering.

Some of the larger optometry chains are gearing up to lodge their assessments online. When this happens it will be a happy day for patients, GPs and TfNSW.