What’s hindering Australia’s digital health adoption?


A single pain point which hinders Australian healthcare’s progress in digital transformation is cybersecurity. 

In recent years, Australia has made serious efforts to develop the digital capabilities of its health system, including making multi-year investments and creating a national strategy, a blueprint and an action plan. It is working towards its vision of “trusted, timely and accessible use of digital and data underpinning a personalised and connected health and wellbeing experience for all Australians.”

However, “cybersecurity continues to be a major growing pain in digital health adoption,” stressed Hamish Steel, founder of the Digital Health Festival (DHF) in Australia. 

“In the past 18 months, we’ve seen sizeable breaches at key services from across the country, including the most recent case of not-for-profit St Vincent’s Health. It’s a major concern which the top experts we’re bringing to this year’s event will help address.”

Meeting of the minds

While relatively new, the DHF has become a sought-after annual event where stakeholders across the industry, from healthcare executives and vendors to influencers and decision-makers, come together to connect and learn from one another, trying to find solutions to healthcare’s pressing challenges. 

“DHF started as a pandemic side project while I finished my law degree,” Steel shared. During that time, he started looking into the health technology space for potential investment ventures. He joined virtual health events and noticed something that was overlooked. 

“COVID-19 outlined a huge need for innovation. Looking across the ecosystem, you’ll see innovation in fragments. Every care provider faces the challenge and opportunity of digital adoption.”

“It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare; the opportunity for digital transformation is huge,” he said. 

Spotlight on AI, cybersecurity

Each year, the DHF touches on timely issues and seeks to unite participants to discuss solutions across five core areas: Data & Analytics, Virtual Care, Workforce Productivity & Training, Aged Care Innovation, and Primary & Allied Care. 

“At our core, we connect people who have great ideas. We aim to create an unparalleled event experience that prioritises innovation, connection, serendipity and learning. Given this, we’re focused on two things: encouraging serendipity and connection and creating insight-rich content,” explained Steel.

“This is not an event for academic jargon. We challenge our presenters to be incredibly practical, tackle the biggest topics, and whenever possible, be controversial.”

Besides cybersecurity, which has become a recurring major topic of interest among attendees, the growing popularity of generative AI will also be highlighted in the third edition of the DHF this 7-8 May in Melbourne.  

“The buzzword on everyone’s mind is generative AI. ChatGPT has democratised health information for patients. We are fortunate to get amazing advice from esteemed AI experts like IBM’s Dr Stefan Harrer. He was raising ethical concerns about ChatGPT before I knew what it was – I’m glad we listened,” Steel said. 

Additionally, women’s health, and for the first time, First Nations health, will also be tackled in the discussions. 

“We continue to highlight women’s health; we are excited to host Clue’s founder Ida Tin, who coined the term ‘femtech’. I’m also really proud that this year we’ve included content on digital health for First Nations people. We are keen to promote any innovations that can, in some way, bridge societal inequalities.”

DHF 2024 seeks to double its previous edition, aiming to gather over 6,000 senior executives across Australia-New Zealand and abroad.

“DHF has become a very practical, business-driven format. People come not only to attend the conference; they know it’s that one time of year when all their clients, partners, and friends get together.”

Use code HITNEWS for $150 off your tickets for the Digital Health Festival taking place on 7-8 May in Melbourne, Australia. Visit the DHF 2024 website here. 


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