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Australian Digital Health Agency working towards secure electronic messaging between healthcare providers

The Australian Digital Health Agency (DHA) is working together with clinical information systems vendors to develop nationally scalable secure electronic messaging between healthcare providers.

The technology would enable the secure flow of health data from one healthcare provider to another, irrespective of the software they are using, the organisation they work for, or with whom they are communicating. There would be no more need for insecure communication channels like facsimile (fax).

DHA called for tenders in February this year for industry and clinical consortia to work together to fix these integration problems. After a competitive process, DHA has entered into a contract with HealthLink to lead a consortium to send secure messages between General Practitioners (GPs) and specialists, and with Telstra to lead a consortium to send discharge summaries to GPs and other healthcare providers.

A range of healthcare providers across a variety of locations are engaged in current trials. The success of the messaging integration between different clinical information systems from different vendors will be evaluated based on approval from the healthcare providers.

Dr Nathan Pinskier, Chair of the The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Expert Committee on eHealth and Practice Systems expects the technology will have a big impact on the sector, where confidential patient records are regularly transmitted by dated systems such as facsimile and post.

Dr Pinskier said, “The number one issue to be resolved in health care communications is the ability for healthcare providers to electronically communicate with each other directly, seamlessly and securely. The interoperability solution is within our grasp and I thank the Australian Digital Health Agency and its CEO, Tim Kelsey, for listening to the sector and making this a high priority item."

The CEO of DHA, Tim Kelsey, said the agency has partnered with industry, jurisdictions and healthcare professionals and undertaken technical work over months to progress discussions from theory into clinical practice.

"I have been listening to key partners in the community on their aspirations for the Digital Health Agency and ways it can support key health priorities in Australia. Secure messaging between providers is one of the key themes that comes up in these discussions, and getting it right will create opportunities to leverage these communications for other purposes, including uploads to the My Health Record," Mr Kelsey said. The Australian government has allocated AU$374.2 million to be invested over a period of two years, from 2017-18 onwards for the nationwide rollout of an opt-out model of My Health Record and ensuring that every Australian is a part of it, unless they prefer not to.

A third successful consortia is expected to be announced shortly.

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