With many real-world problems still present in Australian healthcare, the time for change in healthcare is now, according to Australian Digital Health Agency Chief Executive Tim Kelsey.
Speaking at the recent AFR Healthcare Summit, Kelsey said the industry must make take the action needed to improve access to digital health instead of disrupting it.
“Delivering on digital health is not easy, there are many challenges ahead of us. The reality is, the world of fax machines is not safe and does not empower us to take more control of our health environment. A world of fax machines is not a world for precision medicines,” he said.
“The time for action is now. We’ve got the mandate and we have the strategy. We just need to get the digital basics right and quickly.”
A key issue, Kelsey said, was the need for secure digital messaging.
“So far, secure digital messaging has had interoperability issues. But now, we have industry agreements in place to share information securely. That now will be the basis in which secure messaging will be an important step forward,” he said.
Kelsey said this is the result of a new digital health strategy that the federal and state governments committed to 18 months ago in the aim to deliver safe, evolving healthcare and the creation of modern healthcare in Australia.
Last year, the governments inked a new four-year inter-governmental agreement to oversee this delivery.
The strategy identified seven key priorities, of which providing registered clinicians with the ability to securely communicate with each other without resorting to paper or fax machines by the end of this year is one of them.
“By 2022, providers in Australia will have connected all their care services so that clinicians in and out of hospitals have access to the right patient at the right time.”
Another key part of the strategy, according to Kelsey, is the My Health Record (MHR).
“A recent report identified, quite astonishingly, that in today’s high-quality healthcare in Australia, that 1.2 million Australians will have experienced an adverse medication event in the last six months. 250,000 hospital patients are seen each year because of medications misadventure. A key cause is the absence of real-time medical records at the point of care – a key benefit of MHR,” he said.
According to Kelsey, more than 50 per cent of pharmacies are now uploading to MHR – an “enormous shift” from the start of the year.
“What this means is comprehensive coverage. A GP will have the most up-to-date information currently available on the patient and in that way, we will reduce the number of accidental misdiagnoses,” he said.
[Read more: The Australian health system “will fail” if the pace of change is not met: KPMG | CSIRO lays out action plan for Australia’s digital health future]
The next step for MHR, Kelsey said, is to work closely with the specialist communities and aged care to build connections.
“Recent PSA research found that over half of residents in an aged care facility in Australia are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medication. Technology can be a very strong support to reduce those instances,” he said.
“And the MHR provides those rights to citizens to decide with whom they share their data and at what time.”