Australian Health Ministers’ ConferenceAustralia’s health system delivers some of the world’s best health outcomes. However, maintaining or improving these outcomes in the face of growing pressures on the health care system will require a fundamental change in the way health care is delivered into the 21st century. Change must address the way information is accessed and shared across the health system, which will in turn transform the way health care
professionals practice and consumers interact with the health system.
Currently the health information landscape is characterised by discrete islands of information with significant barriers to the effective sharing of information between health care participants. It also poses challenges when trying to understand and report on what is really happening to support population health surveillance and guide policy, service planning, innovation and clinical and operational decision-making.
Whilst Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and the private sector are already investing in various E-Health foundations or initiatives, without some form of national coordination there is a real risk of extensive duplication, avoidable expenditure, and the creation of new solutions that cannot be integrated or scaled across the continuum of care.
In early 2008, Australian Health Ministers, through the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC), commissioned Deloitte to develop a strategic framework and plan to guide national coordination and collaboration in E-Health. As part of this process, Deloitte conducted a series of national consultations which included Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, general practitioners, medical specialists, nursing and allied health, pathology, radiology and pharmacy sectors, health information specialists, health service managers, researchers, academics and consumers. An electronic submission process was also used to facilitate wider community input.
The national E-Health strategy developed by Deloitte, together with key stakeholders, provides an appropriate basis to guide the further development of E-Health in Australia. It adopts an incremental and staged approach to developing E-Health capabilities to:
• leverage what currently exists in the Australian E-Health landscape;
• manage the underlying variation in capacity across the health sector and States and Territories; and
• allow scope for change as lessons are learned and technology is developed further.
The strategy reinforces the existing collaboration of Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments on the core foundations of a national E-Health system, and identifies priority areas where this can be progressively extended to support health reform in Australia. The strategy also provides sufficient flexibility for individual jurisdictions, and the public and private health sectors, to determine how they go about E-Health implementation within a common framework and set of priorities to maximise benefits and efficiencies.
The ultimate benefit achieved from a national E-Health strategy is a safer and more sustainable health system that is equipped to respond to emerging health sector cost and demand pressures. Improvements in the Australian health care system will also drive stronger workforce productivity that is integral to Australia’s long run economic prosperity.
The E-Health strategy is commended as a useful guide to the next steps for Australia in its E-Health journey. The E-Health strategy is pragmatic, balances different priorities and will help to lead Australia towards the delivery of a safer, better connected and more sustainable health care system.
Katy Gallagher MLA
Australian Health Ministers’ Conference
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