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Mandatory Secure Messaging Standards to Boost Digital Health in Australia

Australia New Standards for Secure Messaging

State, Territory and Commonwealth Governments have released a joint statement in support of new standards for secure messaging.

As reported, the standards will be mandatory in future procurement for applicable systems.

The joint statement was shared during a recent workshop attended by over 50 representatives from clinical and secure messaging software suppliers, governments and clinical representatives.


The Australian Digital Health Agency has been working with industry and governments over a number of years to achieve interoperable secure messaging across different systems.

This is necessary to accelerate the use of electronic messaging over fax machines and paper transmission.

The workshop launched the approach to national scaling for a consistent, standards-based approach to secure messaging across Australia.

This will enable healthcare providers to communicate effectively as part of the National Digital Health Strategy 2018-22.

Ms Bettina McMahon, soon to be interim CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency, explained that many people across industry, governments and peak associations have been working together since the first meeting in December 2016 to solve what some were describing as an intractable problem.

They always believed that they could co-produce specifications and standards with industry and professionals, which will be tried out in early implementation, and eventually get to a point where Australian customers of these systems would require their use.

They are now at that point, where Governments are confirming that future procurements will reference the standards as mandatory requirements.

About the Initiative

Once again the government, the health sector and the software industry have come together to address a key priority in the National Digital Health Strategy.

It is this level of cooperation and shared insights that will allow for the benefits of digital health to be achieved.

Ms Emma Hossack, Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA), explained that there is work underway on a standards framework, trust framework and federated directory solution.

There is a consensus that these will be developed collaboratively and in keeping with the broader digital health interoperability approach.

Although it cannot be rushed, they are optimistic that future development will occur through agreed standards, validation and conformance which are good news for all Australians using the health system.

They have witnessed a significant level of industry collaboration and commitment in the last three years, according to Dr Nathan Pinskier, GP and former Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – eHealth and Practice Services,

This was done in order to resolve a major deficiency in healthcare secure messaging, which is the lack of seamless interoperability between disparate software products.

In this new decade of 2020, this collaborative program is now poised to deliver tangible benefits to both healthcare providers and their patients.

A Communique on the outcomes of the workshop was released, which describes the steps that will be taken to support the national scaling of standards-compliant systems.

Additionally, the Communique acknowledged the work done with industry to co-develop standards, which were tested and refined through proof of concept implementations, the balloting of standards where appropriate, and the provision of financial support to industry to implement these standards.

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