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Progress and barriers to a digital health upgrade

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In collaboration with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, Microsoft has published a briefing paper that highlights the progress being made in digital-enabled health care, the barriers to progress, and how a digitally augmented system can improve the lives of all Australians.

Microsoft sought input from Australian experts on the current and future state of our health care system and has released Embracing the Change Mandate: The 2020 Digital Transformation Agenda for Australia’s Health Care Sector.

Establishing a new digital health care system is complex.

“We need to deliver care; reduce errors, waste, and duplication of services; and create a sustainable system amid growing expectations and financial constraints,” says Professor Johanna Westbrook, Director of the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research (CHSSR) at Macquarie University in Sydney.

The report states there are key steps for leveraging digital technologies: working towards full digital transformation; localising international technology options; collaborating with technology providers and IT staff; sharing lessons learned within the sector; promoting digital success; and developing digital health skills.

With Australian healthcare organisations clearly moving down the track to digital health initiatives, many have seen positive results.

Richard Royle at PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia believes the evidence supports electronic records leading to improved length of stay and clinical outcomes.

“The ability to document, in an electronic record, the clinical pathways to follow for diagnoses produces greater consistencies of clinical outcomes and reduces readmissions,” he says.

However, there are still digital challenges needed to be overcome.

Dr Andrew Hugman of South East Sydney Local Health District, part of NSW Health, also contributed to the report and believes there needs to be greater engagement across all stakeholders.

“Many clinicians believe health IT projects create barriers to patient care as opposed to being the crucial tools for delivering the potential for massive gains,” he says.

“Once there is a better awareness from both the public and clinicians of how we can use the huge amount of health data we are collecting, there will be more drive for greater transparency to interrogate and analyse the data.”

The AMA provided a submission earlier this year to the Joint Standing Committee’s inquiry into the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN). The submission focused on broadband access for regional, rural and remote health services, while centred around the principle that all Australians, regardless of where they live or work, should have equitable access to high-speed and reliable internet services.

The submission highlights that the NBN is a necessary and worthy investment that is needed to enhance the important contribution made by regional areas to Australia’s economy. It notes that the economic and social benefits of advances in information and communications technology can only be fully realised through access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband services.

However, the submission notes there are many regional rural and remote areas that have very poor broadband connection. Internet services delivered via satellite only make available relatively small download allowances and these come at a much higher cost and slower speed than those services available via fibre or fixed wireless in metropolitan areas. The submission stresses that this ‘data drought’ must be addressed as a matter of priority.

Among other things, the AMA has urged the Government to find ways to extend the boundaries of the NBN’s fibre and fixed wireless footprints into the satellite footprint wherever possible to lessen the reliance on satellite for those living in rural and remote Australia and to address the increase in internet usage over time.

A copy of Microsoft’s report can be found here: https://sendto.stwgroup.com.au/message/JNd9m1h4J9MGnIf0yE9CDo/YBqDGbzcKslfYjQVos48fE/xHupsBS0HNo4x2VyBLPkhH/20624_HBR_Briefing%20Paper_Microsoft_Health.pdf

The AMA’s response to the Joint Standing Committee’s inquiry into the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) can be found here: https://ama.com.au/system/tdf/documents/AMA%20submission%20to%20Joint%20Standing%20Committee%20on%20the%20NBN.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=46166