Safe, Seamless and Secure: Australia’s Digital Health Strategy

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COAG has recently approved the Australian Digital Health Agency’s National Digital Health Strategy.  The Digital Health Strategy reinforces a well acknowledged need, and increasing demand, for real progress on the delivery of interoperability across Australia’s health system.  The seven strategic priorities reinforce the need for a national approach to strategies that have been encapsulated in state and territory plans for many years now:

1.  Health information that is available whenever and wherever it is needed

2.  Health information that can be exchanged securely

3.  High quality data with a commonly understood meaning that can be used with confidence

4.  Better availability and access to prescriptions and medicines information

5.  Digitally enabled models of care that improve accessibility, quality, safety and efficiency

6.  A workforce confidently using digital health technologies to deliver health and care

7.  A thriving digital health industry delivering world-class innovation.

The Australian community has embraced technology in many aspects of life, with major changes in everyday activities like banking, shopping, communication, entertainment, procurement of services and learning.  There is a burgeoning market in health apps and wearable devices for monitoring health, with BCC research in May 2017[1] showing that the global mHealth market is likely to reach $46.2 billion by 2021 from $13.2 billion in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 28.6%, from 2016 to 2021.  This rapid rate of change in the way that individuals interact with technology to manage their own health, will drive increased expectations by consumers about the way that their information is used to improve their interaction with the health system. 

The Digital Health Strategy identifies a number of critical success factors.  Four of these are particularly key:

Trust and security assurance: Consumer and healthcare provider confidence in the privacy and security frameworks for digital health are certainly critical.  However, trust on both sides will also be built on the level of confidence that information is accurate and complete (within the limits of any controls set to protect particular sensitive information).  While quality is a key element of privacy protection, a focussed and consistent approach to managing data quality and identifying and resolving issues, including those that may occur as a result of mapping and transformation of data in integration, is critical.

Commitment, cooperation and collaboration across all governments: The Strategy identifies the need for all jurisdictions to work together to leverage existing assets and capabilities to reduce duplication of effort and accelerate the realisation of benefits.  It is equally important to achieve the same level of collaboration and cooperation between services within jurisdictions, as issues such as variations in builds of clinical systems across facilities, variable data standards and inconsistent use of identifiers will also compromise the implementation of the digital health strategy.

Establishment of legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks: Establishing legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks that are consistent across Australia will contribute to reducing the current complexity in the environment that needs to be considered in implementation of digital health systems.  If this can be achieved it will remove some of the roadblocks that currently slow eHealth initiatives. 

Strong consumer and clinical engagement and governance: Trust and widespread adoption of digital health will also be influenced by the availability of information as consumers move between services and providers.  Consequently, achieving a critical mass of providers who are actively engaged in digital health will be as critical as achieving a critical mass on consumers. 

 

[1] BCC, Mobile Health Technologies and Global Markets, May 2017