What’s in Australia’s 10-year digital health blueprint?

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The Australian Department of Health and Aged Care will be focusing on several initiatives that will raise the digital capabilities of the Australian health system. 

It recently released its Digital Health Blueprint for the next ten years, outlining the government’s vision for digital health: “trusted, timely and accessible use of digital and data underpins a personalised and connected health and wellbeing experience for all Australians.”

Developed through consultations and research with consumers, clinical healthcare providers, and non-clinical healthcare staff, the blueprint has four key target outcomes with each having specific action areas:

  • Australians have [a] choice in how they manage their health and wellbeing and can navigate the health system knowing their story follows them. 

  • Australia’s health workforce is digitally empowered to provide connected care with confidence, whenever or wherever it is needed. 

  • Data and information are shared and reused securely to deliver a sustainable learning health system. 

  • Modern digital foundations underpin and strengthen a collaborative, standards-based health system that is safe and secure.

According to DOHAC, these outcomes – guided by four principles: person-centred, collaborative, trusted, and enduring – must be “combined with new and improved models of care that can leverage these capabilities.”

An accompanying Action Plan lists all initiatives being/to be taken, spread across three horizons (short, medium, and long), to realise the targeted outcomes. This will be continuously updated to reflect the changing nature of the digital health landscape, the department noted. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Based on recent findings from a survey commissioned by DOHAC to EY Sweeney, the Australian people are now seeking healthcare services that are personalised and that give them more choices. About seven in 10 of the consumer respondents in the survey said technology provides them “more control” of their daily lives.  

Meanwhile, healthcare professionals polled expect digital health solutions to streamline health information access, enhance care delivery, and align with their workflows. About eight in 10 of them found digital health technologies imperative for healthcare providers. 

In achieving its vision and realising its intended outcomes, the Health Department emphasised the “genuine” collaboration among stakeholders of the health system, including state and territory governments, the digital health industry, researchers, health and care providers, and consumers. “We have a clear role in stewarding and supporting the development of Australia’s national digital capabilities for the health system. But we can’t do this alone,” the DOHAC said.

THE LARGER TREND

The Digital Health Blueprint represents a “major step” towards consolidating the federal government’s long-term investment in digital health. In the 2023 budget, the government made a significant investment in digital health to the tune of A$951.2 million (around $640 million) over four years. This includes a budget for the Australian Digital Health Agency, My Health Record modernisation, renewal of the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Digital Health, and improvement in electronic prescribing. 

Additionally, the 10-year blueprint complements the National Digital Health Strategy, which is now being redefined after six years. It also aligns and supports the country’s broader digital transformation agenda, health reforms under the Long Term National Health Plan, and ongoing state and territory-wide collaborations between government and private providers under the National Health Reform Agreement. 

ON THE RECORD

Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler in a media release said Australians now expect to engage with “connected and trusted” health services as they have grown accustomed to a digital way of living.

“We need all parts of our health system to seamlessly connect patients and their healthcare providers, to help Australians live healthier lives. Our Digital Health Blueprint will allow our health system to provide more personalised and connected health care for all Australians, wherever they live.”

In a separate statement, the Medical Technology Association of Australia welcomed the release of the Digital Health Blueprint, saying that “establishing funding pathways, similar to those in other countries, will be important to making cutting-edge health technologies available to Australians.”

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