What does Australia want from digital health?

In developing this National Digital Health Strategy, the Australian Digital Health Agency led the extensive “Your health. Your say” consultation process to ensure that the strategy was informed by Australian consumers, carers, healthcare providers, community groups, professional bodies and many other key health stakeholders.

 

More than 3100 people attended meetings, forums, workshops, webcasts and town halls across Australia, and we received over 1050 submissions. Thank you for sharing your views with us!

Read more - What you told us

Four key themes emerged, forming the foundation of the National Digital Health Strategy. These themes have been used as a key input and inform all elements of this strategy.

A description of each of the key themes follows:

1. Support me in making the right healthcare choices, and provide me with options.


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Health consumers and carers expressed a strong desire to be increasingly empowered – to take control of decisions regarding their own health and to be provided with access to their own personal health information that supports them in this.

After witnessing the impact of digital technologies on other industries, health consumers and carers have growing expectations of the ways in which digital technology will facilitate improved access to healthcare services, delivering services in ways that are convenient for them.

Health consumers and carers see healthcare services as including high-quality personal and health information, not just face-to-face appointments.


Clinicians, healthcare providers and peak bodies see the benefits of patient empowerment and access to information but recognise that reduced access to the internet among some socio-economic and demographic groups poses risks to healthcare access and equity that need to be addressed. They believe it is critical that patients are not left behind through the increased reliance upon digital health technologies and services.

2. Help all the people who care for me to understand me, and together, provide safe and personalised care.


Health consumers and carers regularly experience the need to share their full medical history when they meet with a healthcare provider. The consultation process made it clear that Australians are tired of this, and believe that digital technology can and should facilitate this information being captured once and shared among all their healthcare providers.


In order to facilitate this, clinicians and healthcare providers need to have trust and confidence in the accuracy and completeness of their patients’ information, allowing them to deliver the right health advice to patients, which will lead to better outcomes.

Clinicians and healthcare providers are willing to use digital technology, but require evidence showing the value of such technology before investing in change to their current working practices.

Clinicians and healthcare providers recognise the need to move from providing undifferentiated care to increasingly personalised care, and realise the reliance that this approach will have upon strong digital health foundations.

3. Create an environment where my healthcare providers and I can use and benefit from innovative technologies.


Health consumers and carers have an expectation that innovative digital technologies will continue to improve their experience with the health system, as they have in many other industries.

Over 80% of respondents to the online survey agreed that digital technology will transform and improve healthcare outcomes for Australia, with access to personal health information using digital technology considered highly important. More than four times as many people want to access their personal health information on a mobile app (48%), than do currently (11%) and 69% of people want to access their personal health information through their laptop or desktop computer, compared to 31% who do currently.


To support these expectations, clinicians and healthcare providers need ongoing training, as well as high-quality and reliable digital health technology, clinical information systems and internet connections, to ensure that they are able to use digital health technology and services effectively.


Researchers, scientists, the technology sector and the health informatics community all expressed a strong desire to work more closely with clinicians and healthcare providers in order to continuously improve digital health solutions. In addition, these stakeholders want to see clinicians and healthcare providers embrace the cultural change required to adopt and use digital technologies, and to promote staff education in order to maximise the potential benefits of sharing health information.

Researchers, scientists, the technology sector and the health informatics community also want clear rules and guidance around standards and specifications relating to the use of digital health services and technologies across the health sector, in order to develop digital health solutions that maximise interoperability and to reduce the cost of integrating siloed health information.

4. Preserve my trust in the healthcare system and protect my rights.


Health consumers and carers have a clear expectation that the privacy of their health information should be respected, and their rights protected. The consultation process made it clear that Australians expect strong safeguards to ensure their health information is safe and secure, and that their data is used only when necessary and when they choose.


Clinicians and healthcare providers need greater confidence in the security of the systems that enable them to share patient information with other clinicians. They need assurance that the digital systems they use support them to meet their obligations to keep their patients’ health information secure and private, and that health data will be used safely and appropriately to improve patient outcomes.


Researchers, scientists, the technology sector and the health informatics community want de-identified data to be used for research to help deliver insights on health trends and deliver population health improvements.

To achieve this, simple, clear rules and guidance on privacy, security and data ownership are required.


Throughout the consultation process, a clear desire was expressed for Australians to have a greater level of digital access to health services. The following figure shows some key statistics that emerged from these consultations:

Figure 3 - Australians want digital access to health

The consultation process showed that it is not just health consumers who want to be able to access digital health services, but also that healthcare providers have a strong desire to make greater use of digital health tools and services in their work.

The following figure shows the health service activities that healthcare providers already perform, and want to perform using digital health solutions. It is clear that healthcare providers already make use of digital technology; for example, three-quarters of providers currently use digital means to access clinical reference tools.

Figure 4 from the strategy
Figure 4 - Current use and interest in using digital solutions, by activity.

 

Read more - A Strategic Direction for Digital Health in Australia