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Enhancing Connectivity Across Australia’s Healthcare System

The Australian Digital Health Agency has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an international standards development organisation aimed at supporting the robust development and implementation of digital health standards and specifications to help improve connectivity across the national healthcare system.

The CEO of the Agency stated that this collaboration with the organisation affirms the importance of a thriving digital health standards ecosystem and would have a direct impact on consumers gaining better access to their health information through the Australian healthcare system.

She noted that digital health standards are critical to the safe, secure, and seamless movement of consumer health information between different healthcare providers. Fostering and enabling interoperability in the health system is critically important and standards have a key role to play.

The partnership will seek to create a new era of digital health in Australia with strong governance. This means open and collaborative processes for the agreement, development, testing, publishing and maintenance of digital health standards.

The Agency and the organisation will work together to support the consistent adoption of digital health standards to strengthen connected health care across Australia. National priorities will be addressed systematically, and the standards community will be supported to grow and expertise.

The aim is to foster a vibrant Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) community in Australia as outlined in Connecting Australian Health Care – National Healthcare Interoperability Plan. Put simply, FHIR is the how-to-guide that enables health information movement from one place to another, a freely available and nationally endorsed interoperability standard, she said.

Both parties acknowledge that various parts of the health system are at different points in their digital journey. The long-established V2 and CDA standards are used widely. These will continue to be supported during the transition to FHIR. Together, the two will deliver training, education, and uplift activities to support the health workforce to use the new standards.

The Australia Chair of the organisation noted that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding represented a significant moment for the promotion and adoption of interoperability standards in Australia. She said that this agreement is a testament to the world-class standards development community we have in Australia.

Equally, it presents an opportunity for the community to help nurture new partnerships across health and social care in the interests of achieving a consensus approach to the development of the standards used in Australia. One of the organisation’s priorities through the partnership is to communicate requirements more clearly for standards for national acceptance across public and private health and social care.

Australia has an ambitious plan to connect health care by 2027. The two parties are working together to ensure the digital health standards required to enable the movement of consumer health information through a connected healthcare system are robustly developed, easily adopted, widely available, well maintained and effectively governed.

About the Australian Digital Health Agency

Digital innovation and connection are vital parts of a modern, accessible healthcare system with regard to improving the health of all Australians. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, digital health has registered exponential growth in relevance and importance, making it more pertinent than ever for all Australians and healthcare providers.

Better patient healthcare and health outcomes are possible when you have a health infrastructure that can be safely accessed, easily used and responsibly shared.

To this end, the National Digital Health Strategy is establishing the foundations for a sustainable health system that constantly improves. It underpins and coordinates work that is already happening between governments, healthcare providers, consumers, innovators and the technology industry.

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