Doctors will have access to clinic management software that is 30 per cent more efficient than other systems, the Hong Kong Doctors' Union said yesterday. The software, HKDU-CMS Version 1.0, was awaiting a patent and would be available to members for free in the first six months, president Henry Yeung Chiu-fat said. They would then have to pay HK$400 a month, but Dr Yeung said the software, developed by the union and LX1 Technology, was cheaper than most existing programs. Doctors will be able to input diagnoses and prescriptions five to 10 times faster, he said. 'Typing 'st' automatically generates 'sore throat', and 'rn' 'runny nose',' he said, adding that the software also supported Chinese characters. Doctors would therefore be able to spend 70 per cent of their consultation time having eye-to-eye contact with patients. Only 20 to 30 per cent of doctors are now using computers for clinic management. Dr Yeung said he expected 1,000 to 1,500 doctors to have embraced the user-friendly program one year after its launch. The software could enable real-time infectious-disease surveillance because it was linked to the Centre for Health Protection. Doctors now had to report several diseases to the centre weekly, but the new software would allow the information to be updated immediately, he said. It could also support an electronic medical-records system shared between public and private doctors. Dr Yeung said millions of dollars had been invested in developing the software and it could be applied to other industries. Patient data would be securely encrypted so there was no worry about hackers. The chairman of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisations, Cheung Tak-hai, welcomed the software as it would save time and reduce costs. 'It is the irreversible trend to digitalise things, so doctors should also embrace an electronic system,' he said. But Mr Cheung said that since public hospitals adopted computer systems a few years ago, patients had complained that doctors no longer looked at them. 'They are just staring into their monitors. I think doctors should not forget to communicate with patients,' he said. He was unworried that sharing records among doctors posed a privacy problem. 'Even when you are applying for credit cards you need to surrender your personal information,' Mr Cheung said, adding that patients would be less worried if the government monitored the sharing of information vigilantly.