In order to realise the benefits of digital health, the National Digital Health Strategy will need to address the following to ensure successful implementation of priority strategies.
Trust and security assurance
Consumer and healthcare provider trust in digital health is critical to the successful delivery of the National Digital Health Strategy. Strong privacy, security and risk management frameworks to protect sensitive information while also enabling the safe and efficient sharing of information are vital.
Healthcare professionals need to understand how to use digital tools in a way that safely handles personal information, and consumers need to be educated about their privacy rights in order to make informed choices regarding how their health information is used.
The Australian Digital Health Agency has established the Cyber Security Centre to protect the national digital health systems and personal health information of Australians that is stored and transacted through them from the cyber threat, and to raise the security posture of the Australian digital healthcare system. The Agency will continuously adapt and improve the security of Agency systems and services to ensure emerging threats, risks and vulnerabilities are managed effectively.
Commitment, cooperation and collaboration across all governments
Given the significant investment in digital health being made across health services and governments, a national approach must acknowledge, complement and build on these developments and not duplicate existing activity. Achieving the outcomes and benefits anticipated in this strategy will require all governments to support the priorities and commit to ensure national capabilities are delivered for all Australians, no matter where they live or are travelling. Working together and leveraging existing assets and capabilities will avoid duplication and fast-track the realisation of benefits.
Establishment of legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks
The management of personal healthcare information and clinical processes such as medicines management is governed by a complex network of federal, state and territory legislation.
This strategy has an outward focus that will require shifts in policy – including legislation, regulation and funding models – to deliver the priorities. Enhancing models of care, changing prescription processes and medicines information, and improving interoperability are some priority areas that will require changes in policy and funding structures, and will require capabilities that do not yet exist in the healthcare system. Australia’s policy and legislative framework must be able to accommodate changes that will occur from time to time, and for the maturation of implemented solutions. Stakeholders will need to be supported to navigate their way through this process.
Legislation is in place to govern the operations of the My Health Record system and the Healthcare Identifiers Service, as well as the oversight and mandate for the digital health agenda under the Australian Digital Health Agency. By law, a review of the enabling legislation for the My Health Record system and the Healthcare Identifiers Service needs to be undertaken every three years. The next review for both of these Acts will be required during the timeline of this strategy.
Strong consumer and clinician engagement and governance
The ongoing use of collaborative, co-design and co-production principles will be integral to ensuring digital health is usable within the health system. Engaging the tremendous diversity of health professionals involved in health and care is challenging. Any initiative requiring a change of practice in the digital health domain will require this scope of clinical engagement to be successful.
The Australian Digital Health Agency will need to work with individuals, healthcare providers and software and technology vendors to ensure that consumer-focused digital health solutions are easy to use and able to be understood by individuals, while still providing the level of detail and the information required for an individual to be active in the management of their healthcare.
Effective governance and leadership
Strong national leadership will be critical to the success of this strategy. No single organisation can achieve the desired outcomes from digital health alone. A coordinated approach will support governments and industry to deliver on the objectives.
Learning from others
Australia is innovating strongly in a few select areas in the digital health space; through this strategy we seek to become a world leader in digital health. By developing meaningful partnerships between industry, healthcare consumers, and the research sector, and working with our international partners to share our lessons and insights, there is an opportunity to accelerate our progress in digital health.