Navigating digital health – where we’ve been, and where we’re going

20 December 2018: The best way to predict the future is to create it. This special report shares some insights about what’s on the horizon for digital health in Australia.

Where we’ve been…

2018 has been a watershed year for digital health in Australia. The transition of the My Health Record system to opt out, and the national conversation that ensued, has well and truly brought the topic of digital health into the public consciousness.

As we look ahead to next year, we project that over 90% of Australia’s population will have a My Health Record from February onwards. This will mean that health and care providers can implement safe and efficient digitally enabled clinical workflows on the safe assumption that most of their patients will have their own shared digital health record. The My Health Record system will become a focal element of Australia’s digital health infrastructure, as well as providing a platform for additional innovations into the future.

Other notable milestones from 2018 include the inaugural Global Digital Health Partnership Summit and Symposium in February, the secure messaging industry collaboration workshops in June and November, the official launch of the National Digital Health Strategy in July, and the release of the Digital Health Evidence Review in October. Many other projects are underway in various stages of development; we look forward to announcing their outcomes as they come to fruition.

We also celebrated our second birthday and took feedback from our team on how we should operate into the future, with a new structure and changes in our governance that we’ll implement shortly. We completed our second OCI staff survey and achieved over a 70% completion rate, and are currently analysing the results to help us become an even more effective organisation.

… And where we’re going

The Agency’s work plan for the coming year builds upon the results of previous initiatives in multiple streams, adhering to the long term vision laid out in the National Digital Health Strategy.

As the foundations of Australia’s digital health ecosystem are put into place, it becomes possible to develop and implement new models of care that leverage the capabilities of these foundations. One of these projects is the Children’s Digital Health Collaborative, a joint venture between the Agency, eHealth NSW and the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. As Steve Badham reports in this issue of #Share, the Collaborative is now establishing pilot sites in Western NSW and the Blacktown region of Sydney to connect with local families and discover their needs.

Interoperability between clinical systems is a theme that will gain prominence in the coming year. As Brad McCulloch explains in this issue, interoperability is never achieved in a single step. But like the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, that is where it begins.

Progress towards a national secure clinical messaging system is well underway, Sari McKinnon reports. June’s industry workshop laid the foundations for further collaboration and agreement, and the recent follow-up workshop in November built upon this groundwork.

Implementing digital health is about more than just technologies, workflows and industry standards. Above all, it’s about people. In this issue Rodney Ecclestone tells us about the Agency’s Clinical Reference Leads, our cohort of clinical experts who help to ensure that our policies, programs and their outputs deliver maximum value to Australia’s clinicians and the patients they serve.

Best wishes from all of us

On a final note, on behalf of the Australian Digital Health Agency, I wish all our readers, their families, friends and colleagues a safe and joyous festive season. We can all take this time to reflect on the contributions that we have all made, large or small, to a better future for all Australians.

Bettina McMahon is the Agency's Chief Operating Officer and Executive General Manager for Government and Industry Collaboration and Adoption.