Media release - Helping healthcare providers to share information

9 September 2019: Collaboration to develop enhanced secure messaging functionality will ensure healthcare providers can communicate quickly, easily and securely to provide safer and more efficient care.

Eliminating paper-based messaging in healthcare is a priority of the National Digital Health Strategy.

The Agency has been working with the software industry and healthcare providers to develop standards to improve the secure exchange of healthcare information. Following the successful trialling of the co-designed standards in 2018, the Agency today confirmed that it is partnering with 42 organisations to ensure they are able to easily share information when using different secure messaging platforms across 56 separate software products.

Patient and consumer advocate, Harry Iles-Mann, says that finding ways to reduce frustration and have better, safer, and more effective care is important to him. “Two of the most frustrating things about being a patient are having to repeat yourself in multiple care environments and bringing bundles of paper with you to appointments,” Mr Iles-Mann said.

Most clinicians can only correspond electronically with healthcare providers who use the same secure messaging software. These enhancements will allow clinicians to more easily address messages to healthcare providers who are on other secure messaging platforms and will ensure messages and acknowledgements are sent in standard formats. Breaking down these silos will allow clinicians to achieve the full potential of secure messaging and will support the move to axe both the fax and the scanner. GP Clinical Advisor to the Agency’s Secure Messaging Program, Dr Nathan Pinskier, said ensuring providers can communicate quickly, easily and securely allows them to provide safer and more efficient care.

“When patients are visiting different doctors and healthcare providers, or they are referred by a doctor to a hospital or vice versa, it is increasingly important that information relating to that patient’s ongoing care – such as referrals, specialist letters, and discharge summaries – can be exchanged by secure electronic communications,” Dr Pinskier said. “The current work program being undertaking with these organisations will make it easier for healthcare providers to use secure messaging platforms by enhancing the software available to them in terms of functionality, useability and interoperability.”

General Manager of eHealth Solutions at Telstra Health, Tania Oldaker, said this is a great example of collaboration between software organisations and the Agency to support the work of general practitioners, specialists, allied health practitioners and other providers across Australia.

“We’ve worked closely with the Agency and our colleagues in the software industry to develop these new secure messaging standards and test them in a proof-of-concept implementation,” Ms Oldaker said.

“Now it’s time to scale this work nationally, and we’re excited to be implementing these changes across our product suite.”

Australian Digital Health Agency Chief Operating Officer, Bettina McMahon, said secure provider-to-provider communication is a key component of digitally enabled and coordinated care across the Australian health sector.

“We have made significant progress on secure messaging by working with industry on a provider directory model that breaks down barriers between clinicians, while still leveraging the investment that the secure messaging industry has made to date.” Ms McMahon said.

“This is the next step that will ensure those new standards are adopted quickly so GPs, hospitals, specialists and other health practitioners can reap the full benefits of secure messaging, which include timelier receipt of clinical information and not having to chase or resend referrals.

“It also means we are one step closer to retiring fax machines, which is a priority of the National Digital Health Strategy agreed to by all Australian governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council.”

Find out more about Secure Messaging.

See the full list of organisations particiating in the secure messaging industry offer

Fast facts

  • The Agency announced a program in March 2019 to accelerate the adoption of new secure messaging standards by software providers.
  • Providers are required to integrate the new standards into their products by May 2020.

ENDS

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About the Australian Digital Health Agency

The Agency is tasked with improving health outcomes for all Australians through the delivery of digital healthcare systems, and implementing Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy – Safe, Seamless, and Secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia in collaboration with partners across the community. The Agency is the System Operator of My Health Record, and provides leadership, coordination, and delivery of a collaborative and innovative approach to utilising technology to support and enhance a clinically safe and connected national health system. These improvements will give individuals more control of their health and their health information, and support healthcare providers to deliver informed healthcare through access to current clinical and treatment information.