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Australia to secure healthcare info exchange by going paperless

The Australian Digital Health Agency has recently announced an incentive to accelerate clinical software provider adoption of standards.

According to a recent press release, this initiative will deliver enhanced secure messaging functionality into their systems by 2020.

Brief Background

The National Digital Health Strategy, which was approved in 2017 by all states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council, prioritises eliminating paper-based messaging in healthcare.

The Agency has been working with the software industry and healthcare providers in developing standards that will improve the secure exchange of healthcare information.

They are encouraging widespread adoption as part of the program after the successful trialling of the co-designed standards in 2018.

Why adopt a secure messaging system?

Having a secure messaging system is beneficial as it allows healthcare professionals to quickly and securely send important health information to other healthcare professionals providing their patients care.

This information includes referrals, specialist letters and hospital discharge summaries.

Consumers may benefit too as they can avoid the frustration of repeatedly explaining their condition to five different people in order for professionals to stay on top of their health.

A system enabling healthcare professionals to share information quickly and securely would be more convenient.

In addition, it will also eliminate the risk of miscommunicating the advice received from one healthcare professional to the next.

Several healthcare professionals are already using secure messaging platforms.

However, many of these platforms are incompatible with one another. Healthcare professionals resort to using unreliable fax machines or the post in order to send information to one another.

Modern communication technologies are required by modern and connected health systems.

A secure, robust and interoperable messaging is fundamental to creating the patient-centred health system Australia needs and deserves.

Health professionals, who are using different platforms, will be able to securely send information to their patients and other health professionals.

This is essential as secure communications will provide more efficient, safer and direct transfer of clinical information between healthcare providers.

Providing patient care in collaboration with other clinicians requires the safe and timely sharing of their health information.

The inability of healthcare providers to share information quickly can lead to communication breakdowns, which can contribute to poor health outcomes and unnecessary duplication of care.

Manila folders of paper records and fax machines are not good enough in the 21st century.

Who are involved?

The Agency, through an agreement, will provide A$ 30,000 for software vendors to integrate new standards into their existing clinical information and secure messaging systems.

In 2018, the software industry, the clinical community and the Agency agreed on new interoperability standards for secure messaging that will ensure different systems can talk to each other.

This initiative has been put in place to accelerate the adoption of these new standards by software developers following two successful proof-of-concept projects in 2018.

All private vendors that are currently operating clinical information or secure messaging systems, having secure messaging capabilities, on two or more different sites, are eligible.

The project is now moving from a proof of concept and standards development stage to one of national scaling.

The Agency is working closely with governments and the health sector to accelerate take up of software that meets the standards.

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