A spotlight was placed on the health technology industry yesterday and its fundamental role in the future life-saving possibilities of healthcare, advances in medical research and health system efficiencies as the Federal Government pledged supercharged support to the sector at the official launch of the Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy and Framework for Action.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government’s first framework will act as a roadmap for the development of high quality digital healthcare as he also announced the 15 successful bidders for $8.5 million in funding for digital test bed trials that will support the uptake and development of My Health Record.
“My Health Record will help save and protect lives and it will offer increasing clinical utility in our health system in the future,” Hunt said.
“Key projects will be tested and scaled nationally to help deliver improved treatment decisions and coordination of care, and reduced hospital admissions and duplication of medical tests.”
According to the framework, My Health Record is a foundational piece of infrastructure providing an “unprecedented platform for innovation in the provision of digital apps and tools that will support Australians and their health providers to improve health and wellbeing”.
But the government’s ambitious goals extend far beyond My Health Record to include an additional six priority areas to be delivered between now and 2022, including secure messaging, interoperability, data quality, medicines safety and enhanced models of care.
ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey said significant progress had been made since last year when the Council of Australian Governments’ Health Council approved the strategy, including the upcoming opt out period due to begin on July 16 and increased industry support.
“We have also made good progress with ending the use of fax machines in healthcare. Key industry players including the Medical Software Industry Association have agreed to adopt the tools, processes, and standards that will help solve the interoperability problems across secure messaging and clinical information systems. This is a significant step forward,” Kelsey said.
Delivery of the framework’s objectives for the digital transformation of Australian healthcare will rely heavily on the efforts of others. The document lists a cavalcade of extraordinary digital health work being undertaken in Australia, much of it by industry, Public Health Networks, health charities and state and territory governments.
In terms of efforts to get clinical information systems to talk to each other, Queensland Health’s Interoperability Project and the Victorian Government’s work to define a maturity model and baseline for the Victorian public health services adapted from HIMSS are among those to receive recognition.
According to the framework:
My Health Record will be continuously improved, with scoping, building, testing and system releases planned over the life of the strategy to provide additional functionality and health information that benefits clinicians and consumers.
A national interoperability roadmap will be co-developed with all participants in the digital health ecosystem and Australian community to create national interoperability specifications and standards, accreditation regimes and procurement requirements.
Australian governments are “clarifying” how existing digital health foundation infrastructure services and different streams of government technology relating to health integrate and align.
A digital medicines program blueprint will be co-designed to implement digital services to increase the safety, quality and efficiency of medicines use across health and care. The software and technology sector is taking a lead role in developing technical solutions that provide paper-optional prescribing, while providing prescribers, pharmacists, care providers and consumers access to real time and best possible medicines information.
World-class innovation will be led by a digital industry working closely with healthcare practitioners, consumers and the research community. Research and development is a priority for the technology sector which is focused on responding to the needs of healthcare consumers and healthcare providers via the tracking of patient journeys, using analytic algorithms to predict hospital service demand, and investing in research partnerships.
The educating of tech capable workforces will also aim to embed the use of digital health in routine clinical practice for clinical, corporate and support staff.
The digital test bed trials will fast-track some of those efforts, with the successful bidders including a cancer app, medication management platforms, an evaluation tool for diabetes interventions and a project designed to increase the “digital maturity” of specialists.
The hotly contested test bed places were awarded to projects that will use My Health Record information to trial new approaches to the delivery of healthcare and also include initiatives in chronic health and palliative care, as well as a platform to provide coordinated information transfer during the patient journey from gaol to primary care as prisoners are released from incarceration back into the community.
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