Health Ministers approve Australia’s National Digital Health strategy

Digital information is the bedrock of high quality healthcare. The benefits for patients are significant and compelling: hospital admissions avoided, fewer adverse drug events, reduced duplication of tests, better coordination of care for people with chronic and complex conditions, and better informed treatment decisions. Digital health can help save and improve lives.


To support the uptake of digital health services, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council today approved Australia’s National Digital Health strategy (2018-2022).

In a communique issued after their council meeting in Brisbane today, the Health Ministers noted:

“The strategy has identified the priority areas that form the basis of Australia’s vision for digital health. It will build on Australia’s existing leadership in digital health care and support consumers and clinicians to put the consumer at the centre of their health care and provide choice, control, and transparency.”

Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) CEO Tim Kelsey welcomed COAG approval for the new strategy.

“Australians are right to be proud of their health services - they are among the best, most accessible, and efficient in the world. Today we face new health challenges and rapidly rising demand for services. It is imperative that we work together to harness the power of technology and foster innovation to support high quality, sustainable health and care for all, today and into the future,” he said.

The strategy – Safe, seamless, and secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia - identifies seven key priorities for digital health in Australia including delivery of a My Health Record for every Australian by 2018 – unless they choose not to have one.

More than 5 million Australians already have a My Health Record, which provides potentially lifesaving access to clinical reports of medications, allergies, laboratory tests, and chronic conditions. Patients and consumers can access their My Health Record at any time online or on their mobile phone.

The strategy will also enable paper-free secure messaging for all clinicians and will set new standards to allow real-time sharing of patient information between hospitals and other care professionals.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Michael Gannon has welcomed the strategy’s focus on safe and secure exchange of clinical information, as it will empower doctors to deliver improved patient care.

“Doctors need access to secure digital records. Having to wade through paperwork and chase individuals and organisations for information is archaic. The AMA has worked closely with the ADHA on the development of the new strategy and looks forward to close collaboration on its implementation,” Dr Gannon said.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Dr Bastian Seidel said that the RACGP is working closely and collaboratively with the ADHA and other stakeholders to ensure that patients, GPs, and other health professionals have access to the best possible data.

“The strategy will help facilitate the sharing of high-quality commonly understood information which can be used with confidence by GPs and other health professionals. It will also help ensure this patient information remains confidential and secure and is available whenever and wherever it is needed,” Dr Seidel said.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President George Tambassis said that technology would increasingly play an important role in supporting sustainable healthcare delivery.

“The Guild is committed to helping build the digital health capabilities of community pharmacies and advance the efficiency, quality, and delivery of healthcare to improve health outcomes for all Australians.

“We are working with the ADHA to ensure that community pharmacy dispensing and medicine-related services are fully integrated into the My Health Record – and are committed to supporting implementation of the National Digital Health strategy as a whole,” George Tambassis said.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) President Dr Shane Jackson said that the strategy would support more effective medication management, which would improve outcomes for patients and improve the efficiency of health services.

“There is significant potential for pharmacists to use digital health records as a tool to communicate with other health professionals, particularly during transitions of care,” Dr Jackson said.

The strategy will prioritise development of new digital services to support newborn children, the elderly, and people living with chronic disease. It will also support wider use of telehealth to improve access to services, especially in remote and rural Australia and set standards for better information sharing in medical emergencies – between the ambulance, the hospital, and the GP.

Consumers Health Forum (CHF) Leanne Wells CEO said that the strategy recognises the importance of empowering Australians to be makers and shapers of the health system rather than just the users and choosers.

“We know that when consumers are activated and supported to better self-manage and coordinate their health and care, we get better patient experience, quality care, and better health outcomes.

“Digital health developments, including My Health Record, are ways in which we can support that to happen. It’s why patients should also be encouraged to take greater control of their health information,” Leanne Wells said.

Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA) President Emma Hossack said that the strategy distils seven key themes that set expectations at a national level.“The strategy recognises the vital role industry plays in providing the smarts and innovation on top of government infrastructure. This means improved outcomes, research, and productivity. Industry is excited to work with the ADHA to develop the detailed actions to achieve the vision which could lead to Australia benefitting from one of the strongest health software industries in the world,” Emma Hossack said.

Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA) CEO Dr Louise Schaper welcomed the strategy’s focus on workforce development.

“If our complex health system is to realise the benefits from information and technology, and become more sustainable, we need clinical leaders with a sound understanding of digital health,” Dr Schaper said.

The strategy was developed by all the governments of Australia in close partnership with patients, carers and the clinical professionals who serve them – together with leaders in industry and science.

The strategy draws on evidence of clinical and economic benefit from many sources within Australia and overseas, and emphasises the priority of patient confidentiality as new digital services are implemented. The ADHA has established a Cyber Security Centre to ensure Australian healthcare is at the cutting edge of international data security.

The ADHA, which has responsibility for co-ordinating implementation of the strategy, will now be consulting with partners across the community to develop a Framework for Action. The framework will be published later this year and will detail implementation plans for the strategy.

The National Digital Health Strategy Safe, seamless and secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia is available on https://www.digitalhealth.gov.au/australias-national-digital-health-strategy

Notes for Editors

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