8 August 2017

ADHA outlines digital future for doctors

Government MyHealthRecord Technology

The Australian Digital Health Agency says it will smooth a five-year transition to the digital future for doctors by having technology vendors adopt secure interoperable platforms across the health system.

The agency’s blueprint for change is spelled out in a five-year strategy, approved last week by all state and territories, that will begin in earnest with the creation of opt-out My Health Records for all Australians in 2018.

“By 2022 all healthcare providers will be able to contribute to and use health information in My Health Record on behalf of their patients…” the strategy says.

 This will provide “potentially lifesaving access to reports of their medications, allergies, laboratory tests and chronic conditions”, and support significant improvements in the safety, quality and efficiency of healthcare, it says.

“Every healthcare provider will have the ability to communicate with other professionals and their patients via secure digital channels by 2022. Patients will also be able to communicate with their healthcare providers using these digital channels.

“This will end dependence on paper-based correspondence and the fax machine or post.”

The transformation will require a standardisation of patient data so it can be shared in real time across the health system and be available whenever and where it is needed, the document says.

The strategy was adopted by the Council of Australian Governments health ministers in Brisbane last Friday.

Days earlier, the agency’s chief information security officer, Anthony Kitzelmann, offered an assurance that GP clinics would be spared much of the security burden accompanying the jump to digital.

Mr Kitzelmann said small, under-resourced general practices could never be completely secure.

So the agency was working to “incentivise the software developer community to build products that are more secure, demonstrate to us that they’re taking the risk away from the GP, so they can do their job and get on with healthcare without having these overheads”.

“And we’ve actually been getting exceptional feedback from the private sector,” he said in remarks to the Technology in Government Conference in Canberra,  published by the IT News technology information service.

He said vendors were interesting in partnering with the agency to create and encapsulate a security model that let practitioners interact with the national system while making sure they were secure and their records were protected.

“If we can crack that, I really don’t care if they’re accessing (the system) from an Android device, an iPhone, a Windows XP machine or a fully patched Windows 10 machine with all the security bells and whistles, because the product itself is protected.

“Our aim is to remove that burden.”

The strategy document says an agreed vision and roadmap for interoperability between all public and private health and care services in Australia will be confirmed by the end of 2018, following a public consultation. 

“Base-level requirements for using digital technology when providing care in Australia will be agreed, with improvements in data quality and interoperability delivered through adoption of clinical terminologies, unique identifiers and data standards.  

“By 2022, the first regions in Australia will showcase comprehensive interoperability across health service provision.”

The digital heath strategy emphasises the importance of doctor education, saying the agency will help ensure all health professionals have the support needed for “confident and efficient” use of digital services by 2022.

It also plans to promote a network of clinicians who are digital health leaders and champions.

The strategy outlines test areas for digitally enabled health care, including: 

  • Health Care Homes trial and integrated management of chronic illness
  • New digital services to support health in babies in children
  • Advanced care planning
  • Information sharing in urgent and emergency care
  • Better access to telehealth, especially in rural and regional Australia