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Driving Digital Inclusion Across Australia

Image Credits: AuDigitalHealth, YouTube Channel, Vide

In the 1980s, when community members at Yarrabah in far north Queensland were fighting for self-determination, they saw the need for Aboriginal health to be in the hands of their own people and the concept of a community-controlled health organisation was born.

Today, the Health Service organisation delivers primary healthcare across the Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire and has been doing so for decades. To mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, the Australian Digital Health Agency has used a series of videos to recognise the Health Service organisation and the Yarrabah community for embracing innovation and the use of technology to deliver better healthcare.

The Director of Clinical Services at the Health Service organisation, a Yued Noongar man from Dandaragan WA, Dr Jason King said one of the fascinating things about Aboriginal culture is that information about the world around them has always been evolving and so communities, almost by second nature, understand the importance of transmitting information from one generation to the next.

“For thousands of years, they’ve been custodians of data and in the 21st Century, with digital health tools at their fingertips, Aboriginal communities have the opportunity to extend their ability to be owners of their own health care,” he said.

Dr King said My Health Record, with a centralised set of tools, puts Aboriginal people into the conversation about their health in a much more empowered way. He noted that one of the most important things in providing safe healthcare is having consistent information and for the patient who might not understand all of their medications, having that safe and secure central source of information in their My Health Record is a massive guarantee for them.

A challenge when working in a place like Yarrabah is that patients often have complex and complicated health problems and see several other health providers. Digital health tools help healthcare professionals gather that information from all those different sources and when that is input into My Health Record, that complete story is available for the healthcare team to view.

When that information is shared appropriately, it means the clinician doesn’t have to waste the patient’s time in asking them for their health and medication history. The Health Service organisation uses telehealth extensively, connecting to specialists and allied health in Cairns, Townsville or Brisbane, so their patients don’t need to leave the community unnecessarily to access those essential services.

The Health Service organisation looks at their patients’ spiritual and cultural health, the health of their country and how that impacts them as a person.

A good set of digital health tools helps the doctor and patient get closer and speak the same language. Communication relies on technology in the 21st century and now with electronic records, there is a tool that can be leveraged to improve the care of the patient, Dr King said.

The Australian Digital Health Agency CEO stated that the Health Service organisation and other Aboriginal community-controlled health services around the country were leading the way in the uptake of digital innovation to enhance healthcare.

It was also noted that advances in technology are helping improve health outcomes across Australia. Access to reliable internet services has enabled more people, no matter where they live, to access both primary and specialist care sooner, the Chief Development Officer Regional and Remote, and First Peoples Pillar Executive Sponsor, at NBN, said. This delivers big benefits including better health management and reducing the cost and time of travelling to appointments.

NBN is working with regional and remote communities across Australia to ensure providers and patients understand the connectivity they have available to participate in telehealth and virtual care more broadly. The agency is also focused on driving digital inclusion, so people have the tools and skills to get the best out of what telehealth has to offer.

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