Australia to create a connected health service through the National Health Interoperability Roadmap

An announcement from the Australian Digital Health Agency highlighted the government’s plan to connect health services all over the country through the National Health Interoperability Roadmap.

The process of easier access to health service records is about to become a reality. The National Health Interoperability Roadmap is on its way.

Interoperability among systems is an ongoing issue. Information on an individual’s health records are distributed and saved on different health facilities systems across the country. And they are stored as hard copies or scanned copies. Thus, a consumer does not have ready access to records as well as who can manage and access them.

Digital health has enormous potential for all Australians. However, this potential cannot be fully realised while information remains fragmented across providers. Work should be done in order for the different parts of Australia’s digital health system to work together. Interoperability, the ability to exchange information, should be achieved.

Some of the building blocks are already in place. My Health Record provides both a vehicle and a defining framework for the sharing of key information. Also, sharing information between providers who have a clinical relationship to each other and a shared patient are also being used. An example of which is pathology laboratories providing information back to referring GPs in highly useful electronic formats.

Although bilateral exchanges of information work extremely well, issues arise when a service provider that is not included in the arrangement becomes involved in the care of the patient. How can they access critical information without needing to know the original source in advance?

To address this, the draft US Trusted Exchange Framework may serve as a model. Care providers who have critical information about a patient must be able to share that information without knowing in advance who needs it.

Two critical issues arose and needed collective agreement would be the information that would be shared and if the output of one system can be reliably interpreted and used in another.

In order to reap maximum benefits from the exchange of information, a prioritisation process needs to be undertaken. The most urgent problem should be addressed first.

During the planning, the possible approach to societal cost such as patient safety, service navigation or service efficiency should be identified. The possible approaches that will advance terminological consistency should be classified.

The approaches that would promote “atomic longitudinal data” that tracks individual measurements and status at different points in time must be distinguished. Pinpointing the key possible approaches that can be reduced to a series of value-adding steps that can be incrementally implemented is also essential.

Approaches that are feasible and cost-effective to implement as well as those that provide a viable proposition for all stakeholders should be recognised.

In all of these, it must be guaranteed that Australian consumers have access to global developments, and that Australian industry is not locked out of global markets by overly localised solutions.

To lay the foundations for resolving these issues, a commitment to develop a National Health Interoperability Roadmap by December 2018 was made. Stakeholders will soon be called upon to get involved in the project.

An engagement paper that is available for download was used to undertake some preliminary engagement with clinical colleges and industry, community and professional groups.

Emphasis on collaboration, co-development and co-production is given at the Australian Digital Health Agency. Cooperation is needed to achieve the immense potential benefits of a national digital health system.

A full public and industry consultation process will commence in the new financial year.

An earlier announcement made by the Australian Digital Health Agency in 2017 released a Request for Tender (RTF) to develop a Strategic Interoperability Framework for Australia with the objective of creating a seamless health system, which delivers high quality safe care through better sharing of information.

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