19 May 2022 Fact Sheets
Consumers Health Forum

In December 2021 CHF provided a submission in response to a consultation by the Australian Digital Health Agency on the National Digital Healthcare Interoperability Plan.  It soon became clear that many were not sure what interoperability meant and why it was important in the context of the health system.

Interoperability has to do with the way computer software systems can connect and communicate with each other.  In healthcare, it is the ability of different information technology systems and software applications (programs) to communicate, exchange data and use the relevant health information provided. In basic terms, it means creating a connected health system

In all CHF’s research on consumer experiences with new digital health innovations, a constant theme is dissatisfaction with the lack of sharing of, or ability to access a patient’s relevant health information by providers as they move across the health system, often in different care settings.  For those people who have multiple healthcare providers, this causes real frustration, and indeed, concerns around quality and safety of care. Consumers consistently find it perplexing and frustrating that at each encounter with a provider they must repeat their health story repeatedly. 

Many of the health care events experienced by consumers occur in a range of different settings; general practice, hospitals, Emergency (EDs), and specialists for example. When we realise that each setting may use different computer software that doesn’t talk to other computer software, the value of ensuring they can talk to each other becomes clear.  The benefits of creating a truly connected health system where a patient’s providers have access to all relevant patient health information for decision making and can share information with other providers on relevant history, diagnosis, treatments, pathology and diagnostic imaging tests, are immense.

The key benefits include:

  • Improved and safer transitions of care, based on real continuity of care which leads to better health outcomes
  • Improved quality and safety in clinical decision making
  • Reduction in duplication of tests/diagnostics, which not only contributes to a reduction in unnecessary costs, but reduces the clinical risks to the patient, for example radiation load.
  • Reduces the reliance on the patient to retain, understand and share often extensive, complex, and clinically relevant medical information.
  • Provides consumers with increased confidence in their care, knowing that key medical information is shared between their providers. 
  • Delivers improved efficiency by reducing the time it takes to make clinical decisions and to have useful conversations between providers, and between providers and patients.

How do we achieve a connected health system?

A key issue in creating a connected health system relies on bringing software providers along to agree, in basic terms, to develop their systems based on specific national standards. While software companies are very active in ongoing consultations and implementation of current standards for use of their products by the health sector, moving the sector to an agreed set of standards is a challenge for both government and vendors.

Creating a connected health system, however, is not just about technology. Developing a way forward is a vast undertaking, particularly in the context of the Australian health funding model. States and Territories are responsible for funding some parts of the health system, such as hospitals, and the Federal Government is responsible for funding things like general practice, aged care, Medicare, and Pharmaceutical benefits. And each jurisdiction sets some of its own rules that can differ in relation to say, how hospitals manage the privacy, security, storage and sharing of health information for example.   

However, the success of a connected health system will be based on consumer trust and confidence. Consumers consistently call for and increasingly are demanding the many benefits that such connectivity or interoperability can deliver. Research, surveys, and consultations illustrate that consumers want their information shared between their health providers and that they clearly see benefits for their own healthcare. At the same time, however, consumers want to retain control of who has access to their health information and, along the path to a national connected health system, will need to be satisfied and feel confident that the privacy and security of their health information is maintained.

The following quotes from consumers from significant CHF consultations undertaken in 2021 reflect, not only a clear awareness of the value of a connected health system but also the frustration with what they often describe as a fragmented system

“We need a far more linked or integrated health system, especially between public and private health systems. The more information my clinicians have about me, the better my health outcomes will be. It also helps me personally, as I can potentially save my energy and effort, which brings its own health benefits.”

“There has been no conferring, and no cooperation of any kind. Now everything is on computer, and doctors have access to your medical records, across the board, you should be able to go to any medical practitioner who should be able to access your medical records. I actually need you guys to work together."

“Our experience is that when systems work well it is because they are well connected and talk to each other. It is when systems are not well connected, that in the end it is the patient that suffers and misses out on good treatment.”

If you would like to read more on the Draft National Health Interoperability Plan, use the following link to the Australian Digital Health Agency’s consultation paper and a briefer Plan on a Page

Draft National Healthcare Interoperability Plan

Plan on a page 

For CHF’s Submission in response to the Draft National Healthcare Interoperability Plan please go to the following link Draft National Interoperability Plan submission

For questions, email Julia Nesbitt, Digital Health Policy Officer - J.Nesbitt@chf.org.au

16 May 2022 Position Statements
Consumers Health Forum

Election 2022 scorecard on health policy

Community health and wellness in the 21st Century 

What the parties say

Consumers Health Forum commentary on the major parties' health policies as of 16 May 2022 - leading up to the Federal Election 21 May 2022

Response from the Australian Labor Party 
Response from the Liberal–National Coalition (the Coalition)

16 May 2022 Position Statements
Consumers Health Forum

Election 2022 scorecard on health policy

Community health and wellness in the 21st Century 

What the parties say

Consumers Health Forum commentary on the major parties' health policies as of 16 May 2022 - leading up to the Federal Election 21 May 2022

Response from the Australian Labor Party 
Response from the Liberal–National Coalition (the Coalition)

16 May 2022 Position Statements
Consumers Health Forum

Election 2022 scorecard on health policy

Community health and wellness in the 21st Century 

What the parties say

Consumers Health Forum commentary on the major parties' health policies as of 16 May 2022 - leading up to the Federal Election 21 May 2022

Response from the Australian Labor Party 
Response from the Liberal–National Coalition (the Coalition)

22 April 2022 Position Statements
Consumers Health Forum

CHF is aware of the government decision in the Federal Budget that the national Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) role currently fulfilled by NPS MedicineWise will transfer to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare (ACSQHC).

From January 1, 2023:

  • A number of QUM functions currently delivered by NPS MedicineWise will be transferred to the ACSQHC
  • NPS MedicineWise will no longer receive any uncontested funding from the Department of Health to support QUM.

CHF supports the independent stewardship of QUM and for the last two years has been the principal consumer partner for NPS MedicineWise. Independent and nationally coordinated stewardship allows for a more objective analysis of how medicines are used, keeps health professionals and consumers up-to-date with timely, independent evidence-based information and resources about QUM, and gives scope for suggestions for change and improvement in practice that would benefit consumers.

Given the ongoing nature of the reviews of the National Medicines Policy; and given the Partnering with Consumers Standard that underpins all other standards upheld by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, now is not the time for QUM stewardship to be diluted.

Consumers play a vital role in promoting medicine quality and safety. Medicines safety has been designated a National Health Priority Area (NHPA) and should continue to be so in the wake of the findings of the Aged Care Royal Commission. Consumers must be involved in all stages of the proposed new approach from design to implementation.

Consumer interests remain central to the QUM agenda. To uphold this fundamental principle, all organisations seeking to be involved in the various components of the new suite of services from 1 January 2023 should be required to partner with consumer organisations in genuine collaborations to set priorities, co-design and deliver programs.

12 April 2022 Consumers Shaping Health
Consumers Health Forum

Persistence and resolve will get the best reforms

In the Apr 2022 edition of Consumers Shaping Health, we are ....

  • Making the case for Primary Health Care reform
  • Reminding Australians about the flu season with the Royal College of General Practitioners and Diabetes Australia
  • Showcasing the launch of the Australian Health Consumer Sentiment survey with our research partners

view the newsletter

10 March 2022 Submission
Rebecca Edwards, Jennie Parham and Leanne Wells

The Australian health care system includes a national organisation representing health care consumers and equivalent organisations in most states and territories.  There are several disease-specific patient organisations, as well as formalised networks advocating for greater patient involvement in health technology assessment and research.  This signals a system that sees a place for consumer insights: a system that is on a journey of maturing the way in which it seeks to involve consumers in decision-making.

Through this article, patient and consumer leadership is explored by recognising it as the next level of engagement, the deeper value and impact of incorporating the experience of consumers at all levels of the health system, policy decision-making and the opportunity for consumers to become leaders.

8 March 2022 Consumers Shaping Health
Consumers Health Forum

Digital health is about to upend health care – are we ready?

In the Mar 2022 edition of Consumers Shaping Health, we ....  

  • Launched a Whitepaper on Digital Health: Australia's Health Reimaged, the result of a 12-month project with Deloitte, Curtin University and CHF 
  • Released a report from the Rural, Regional and Remote Roundtable held in Dec 2021
  • Showcase a COVID vaccine confidence training package for GP and General Practices, Pharmacists and Practice Nurses 

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3 March 2022 Fact Sheets
Consumers Health Forum
3 March 2022 Fact Sheets
Consumers Health Forum

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