Issue 1 • 2021

The National Digital Health Roadmap: Transforming opinions and the next steps

The National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap was officially released in September 2020. Building upon Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy – Safe Seamless and Secure, and the associated Framework for Action (FAA), the roadmap was created to provide a basis of understanding of the digital capability requirements of all those involved across the health spectrum.
Having the COVID-19 pandemic thrust into the midst of a developing digital health system has placed pressure on the rollout timetable; however, one positive result was a shift in the uptake of digital health services provided by practitioners. The need to engage with these services and their increased availability has appeared to have also provided an important shift in the mindset and attitudes of patients. According to the Minister’s Department of Health, between 13 March and 9 September 2020, 29.6 million Medicare-eligible telehealth services were delivered to 10.4 million patients. This is a significant leap from the previous year and anecdotal evidence from clinicians has suggested that the patient experience of telehealth has differed significantly from expectations in a positive way
In addition to telehealth, electronic prescriptions were introduced across the country. Since May 2020 more than one million electronic prescriptions were issued by year end, 2020.
We spoke with Angela Ryan, Chief Clinical Information Officer for the Australian Digital Health Agency we spoke about the changes brought about to Australia’s digital landscape.
“If we have learned nothing else from COVID-19 it’s that it is possible adapt very quickly. Australia’s need for a connected healthcare system that is accessible, progressive and secure is greater than ever. COVID-19 has necessitated the swift adoption of digital health and transformed the healthcare landscape creating a new context of clinical practice. Confidence in the health system has grown during the pandemic alongside confidence in the use of digital tools, and this has occurred most sharply in the virtual care space. Telehealth has enabled consumers to stay indoors (where appropriate) and clinicians to continue to provide care, where it has been safe to do so.”
The next major step to assist in the uptake and use of digital health – My Health Record, telehealth, ePrescribing and secure messaging, by specialists will be through the release of the Digital Health Specialist toolkit, designed to provide resources that support the adoption of digital health by specialists and their teams in private practice. The toolkit includes fact sheets, user and implementation guides, FAQ sheets and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) modules. The toolkit was developed by an industry steering committee which included the College. Plus designed in consultation with practitioners, the software for specialists to connect to My Health Record has started to be rolled out and there is an expectation that all ten targeted products will be delivered to specialists within the first quarter of 2021.
Launching new technology into the workplace, no matter the benefits, can often be hindered by a slow uptake, especially when there is a need for education and training in its use. Often, specialists whose practice may be small can ill afford the time and money needed to upskill in technology that is not essential to the day to day running of the business. To try and assist in the uptake, the Australian Digital Health Agency engaged with specialists to get their input on how best to provide this education. Using their feedback, a specific eLearning environment was created. This, along with the benefits of gaining CPD credits from the time spent was designed to reduce the overall burden for specialists and incentivise making the changes to their workflow.
You can find out more about the National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap and the Digital Health Specialist Toolkit on the Australian Digital Health Agency website.
© 2021 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians