Healthcare is a critical but contentious issue for countries all over the world. Everyone knows that it’s a necessary part of everyday life, but the disagreements come down to how it’s accessed, how it’s delivered and simply what’s available to patients and doctors alike.
To combat some of these problems, the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has unveiled Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy, an ambitious plan that lays out the government’s plans around all things healthcare for the next five years.
Whilst the report set forward seven strategic priority outcomes to be achieved by 2022, two points of emphasis are likely to have the most impact going forward: the potential of telehealth and the way data can be shared effectively amongst healthcare providers.
Implementing digitally-enabled models of care
Improving the accessibility, quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare was seen as a priority for the ADHA, and one way they suggested doing this was through establishing ‘test beds’ in real world environments.
One of these test beds would be in the form of utilising telehealth for rural locations. A common complaint of those living rurally is the lack of access to healthcare, but with telehealth, they can access quality healthcare without having to leave their communities.
Such innovations may well be here before the decade is out, with the report noting that ‘the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Digital Health Agency are already working together to improve telehealth service delivery in remote Australia.’
Sharing of data is crucial
Many patients complain about having to tell the same information over and over again to various different doctors and hospitals. This can understandably be an annoying process to go through, and the report saw this as a key area for improvement in Australia.
The solution comes in the form of “interoperability”, or more simply, the ability to move information easily between people, organisations and systems. The report said that ‘the ability of different healthcare providers to use shared information with commonly understood meaning is a pre-condition for efficiency and positive patient experiences.’
My Health Record, in operation since 2012 and transitioning to an opt-out model for 2018, will be the bedrock of this initiative, ensuring that the data that doctors need will be available for them when and where they need it.
Digital health is the future
Transitioning to a model of healthcare that puts digital at its core won’t be an easy or quick transformation, but it is a necessary one to guarantee that our healthcare offering remains world-class. Digital is the future, and failing to utilise its effectiveness will impact everyone.
Ultimately, the National Digital Health Strategy is about utilising innovation to make sure that Australians have access to the highest-quality, most accessible healthcare options going forward. The strategy noted that innovation is key to the success of the initiative.
‘Innovation is about doing things in different ways, whether by using new technology or through collaboration, to create new offerings that meet the needs of health consumers, healthcare providers, industry and the broader community.’