Standards Australia has been developing standards for 96 years across a number of industries and sectors with the support of over 5000 contributors. Each standard developed over these years has impacted Australian life to a different extent, none more so than in the health sector. However, in recent years there has been a rapid increase in technological advancement in the health sector with a growing reliance on digital practices.
Security accompanying growth
In line with the fast-paced improvement in technology, there is an equally strong appreciation and understanding of the need for standards-based security around patient information: how it is stored, how it is accessed and how it is shared across, and beyond, the healthcare sector.
While there is broad agreement of the need for a better exchange of clinical information, it is vital to ensure that not only are systems and the information within them connected but they’re connected securely.
This means consideration must be given to the security of patient records and record messaging. Consideration must also be given to the security of health-related payments to patients and practitioners, the security of patients’ medical devices and the information captured by and stored within them.
Digital healthcare and digital hospitals
A digital hospital is one that leverages comprehensive, pervasive information management and information communications technology to support clinical and administrative workflows, as well as safety and quality improvements.
In July 2017, Standards Australia published a world-first digital hospital handbook, an initiative led by the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council and the National Health CIO Forum.
The objective of the Digital Hospitals Handbook was to develop a set of principles and recommendations to inform the design and implementation of digital hospitals – both new and refurbished – in Australia.
Intended to enable innovative ways for providing healthcare services and support positive outcomes for stakeholders, the handbook is a guide for government and industry to use now and into the future.
In developing the handbook, Australian experts have consolidated references to guide health systems as they ‘move to digital’. The primary opportunity is to design hospitals for technological change from the very beginning – again both new and refurbished.
Australian hospitals have been improving their digital maturity for decades. However, early adopters have shown some projects have cost more, taken longer and unfortunately been less effective than was initially intended.
It is by focusing on the people and the final outcomes that the handbook will be utilised heavily by private and public health systems as they plan their digital transitions.
Australia is already at the forefront of digital hospitals. It is the work of standards which has put us there; and it is the continuing work of standards which aims to keep us there.
Standards in the health sector
Currently, Standards Australia has committees working on standards around medical electrical equipment, blood alcohol testing devices, and the safe disposal of sharps and clinical wastes.
As straightforward as these titles can appear to be, there is a complexity to standards not easily understood by those outside the process.
For example, a standard on working with sharps can cover the entire lifecycle of the sharp from how to correctly store them, to their use and eventual disposal; not simply guiding one aspect of using them.
Standards supporting volume to value-based healthcare
In developing standards to support the health sector, it is important to focus on what the sector needs. In the recent past, there has been a push to shift from volume to value-based healthcare.
Change from volume to value ultimately means delivering services that are increasingly personalised, and when scaled can realise not just efficiencies but meet people’s expectations about the kind of care they want (and often expect) for themselves and their families.
Digital healthcare, and digital healthcare infrastructure, is a core part of this focal shift.
When considering the delivery of value-based healthcare, standards (and the supporting role they play) should be embedded in thinking from the incubation of good ideas to their scaling and rollout on a national or international level.
In this growth of digital healthcare, Standards Australia is well-placed and eager to remain involved and to help shape what the health sector will look like in decades to come.
A key priority for Australia is to create and preserve the trust in our healthcare systems and Standards Australia has a clear role supporting this priority by providing standards that continue to underpin the safety, security, quality and competitiveness of the sector.
Dr Bronwyn Evans is CEO of Standards Australia.
Standards Australia last week published its new standard on vendor credentialing in the healthcare sector.