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Australia launches National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap

A national digital health skills and training plan was released on 14 September 2020 to help the Australian health workforce use technology and further drive the digital transformation of health services to meet community demand.

As with every other sector, the adoption of technology is critical for the healthcare system and the Roadmap sets out how the Australian health workforce of more than 767,000 registered healthcare providers (as at March 2020) can be transformed over the next decade.

Image credit: National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap, Release.

The development of the National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap acknowledges people are the health sector’s most valuable asset and that we need to shape education and training to meet their needs and to support the provision of the best care possible to patients.

The current Australian Government has invested in a range of areas to expand the use of digital health, including workforce training, incentives to providers, and support for telehealth, My Health Record and electronic prescribing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of these systems to ensure the delivery of quality patient care during an emergency. A dramatic expansion in the use of telehealth has been a key element of the fight against COVID-19. Between 13 March and 9 September, 29.6 million Medicare-eligible telehealth services were delivered to 10.4 million patients, resulting in $1.52 billion paid in Medicare benefits.

As part of the COVID-19 National Health Plan, the Australian Government also fast-tracked the start of electronic prescribing. This gives prescribers and patients the option to use an electronic prescription, sent by text message or email, as a legal alternative to a paper prescription.

The e-prescription contains an electronic token and other instructions which can be shown to or forwarded to the dispensing pharmacist, who scans the token to reveal the prescribed medicine.

The Roadmap is a key element of the National Digital Health Strategy and was developed following a summit late last year attended by healthcare educators, professional bodies and employers.

The Minister for Health thanked the Australian Digital Health Agency and all of the individuals and organisations who contributed to the development of the Roadmap.

The National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap

The digital transformation of health services can only occur with a skilled, digitally capable workforce. Confident and efficient use of health technologies by all workers in the Australian health sector is critical.

The Snapshot Summary of the Roadmap highlights the need for it. It notes that current and emerging technologies present health leaders with an array of opportunities and challenges. These technologies are expected to profoundly change how healthcare is delivered, and in doing so, change the tasks and functions performed by the health workforce.

The development of a roadmap acknowledges that Australia must shape how education and training enable the health workforce to realise the benefits of technology whilst recognising that people are the health sector’s most valuable asset. To do this effectively, clarity must be provided on what is expected from the wider health workforce in this age of digital disruption, whilst acknowledging the differences in maturity across the health system.

The Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap identifies the impacts of digital health adoption on the health workforce and the enabling education programs required to build digital health capability across Australia. As a key part of this, the roadmap considers the contexts and settings within which the health workforce operates and the different digital roles that are required now and into the future. The roadmap also starts the process of developing a clear workforce and education development pathway to help deliver the changes required.


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