A retrospective on digital health in 2018-19 — and what comes next

20 December 2019: The best way forward often includes taking a moment to look back. Our 2018-19 Annual Report explores the past year’s progress in digital health, as well as what to expect in the new year.

Recognising progress from the past year…

Over the last few years, the Agency, our partners and wider Australia have all taken meaningful steps toward better digital health. However, much of the Agency’s earlier work focused on establishing foundations, building momentum around digital health and co-designing solutions with our partners.

Last financial year, those foundations were put to use as the Agency implemented key parts of the National Digital Health Strategy to support better health outcomes for all Australians.

ADHA annual report

That implementation included establishing My Health Record as a fundamental feature of Australia’s health infrastructure. There are 22.65 million My Health Records, equipping people and their care professionals with digital access to crucial health information. Access to clinical information has also improved, with more than 1.6 billion documents uploaded to the system to date. Additionally, we provided My Health Record training for general practices, pharmacies and Aboriginal medical services.

The year also saw progress that lays the groundwork for a more connected health system. We developed a national framework and new interoperability standards for quickly and safely exchanging patient information without using a fax machine, a device that carries significant health and privacy risks. And we facilitated consultations across every state and territory to create a national Interoperability Roadmap, charting a path for improving the ability of health systems to communicate securely with each other.

Fulfilling part of the National Digital Health Strategy and answering an issue of increasing public urgency, we also released the Pharmacist Shared Medicines List (PSML) document type to continue improving medicines safety. This work expands on the success of the Medicines View document by including over-the-counter products and other non-prescription medicines that can be relevant for medicines reconciliation.

…and looking ahead to 2020

While many of these improvements were achievements in themselves, they also built on the foundations from previous years and have primed Australia for further progress.

So what does “further progress” look like in 2020?

Given their importance to a wide spectrum of other improvements, interoperability and data quality will continue to be priorities. This will include the operationalisation of a community standards development model to enhance data interchange between disparate systems.

Medicines safety will continue to be a priority, and we’ll be working with pharmacists and other partners to integrate the PSML into the My Health Record system at early adoption sites. After completing important regulatory and technical groundwork this year, we’ll be continuing our work to enable electronic prescribing in collaboration with government and industry partners.

There is much work to do, but the Agency is looking forward to what comes next: continuing to deliver on the National Digital Health Strategy and working with the public and our partners to forge better health outcomes through digital health.