KEY IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES
The most important of these is the current lack of an overarching standard to govern the exchange and sharing of data. The strategy document states that there will be a public consultation on base-level requirements for using digital technology, to determine an agreed roadmap for implementing interoperability by the end of 2018. However, it will not be until 2022 that interoperability will be rolled out in the first regions of Australia (not yet defined). This timeframe means that providers and services face a period of uncertainty in making IT investment decisions.
The strategy document does not refer to the cost of implementation. Governments have spent, and will spend, significant funds on digital health. Private providers, particularly doctors and hospitals, have unanswered questions about whether any incentives or support will be provided during the move to interoperability of the system.
The other stand out issues are continuing concerns about both the privacy and accuracy of the health record. Many consumers are not convinced that their information will be safe, reinforced when Medicare card numbers appeared for sale on the so-called “dark web” in July of this year.
Clinicians have expressed disquiet at the fact that, because patients can alter their own health record data, information may become incomplete or inaccurate. As patients do not use agreed terminology or language, a further risk of inconsistency arises.
Overall, the response from peak provider and consumer groups to the National Digital Health Strategy has been positive, with a distinct tone that Australia needs to get on with the digital health agenda without further delay.