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Welcome to the Digital Health Space — a place to catch up across Australian health and care blog posts. We want to hear from you — send us your feedback and comments on the posts below! Follow us @AuDigitalHealth

Health in an age of information

"Cause we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl"[1]

You know these lyrics. Madonna's single "Material Girl" and its accompanying video were huge hits in 1985, and went on to define much of her career. But was she right? Is she really a material girl? And are we living in a material world? More than 30 years after she sang this song, we find that the world we live in is becoming less and less about material things, and more and more about information.

From the perspective of the national and global economy, information technology is a vast and growing sector that is displacing manufacturing in value and influence. A similar trend is apparent in the economy of our daily lives: financial transactions are routinely conducted electronically, and reliance on the physical tokens of notes and coins starts to seem quaint.

My Health Record in General Practice

Dr Steve Hambleton, MBBS FAMA FRACGP (Hon) GAICD

Follow Dr Steve on Twitter @SteveJHambleton

Amongst my other roles, I've been a GP at the Kedron Park 7-Day Medical Centre in Brisbane for the past 29 years. Many of my patients have been in my care for a long time and I know them very well but I cannot be there for them every day. Like a lot of GPs who have been in the same practice for a long time, I mainly treat people with chronic and complex disease.

Dr Steve Hambleton

Pictured: Dr Steve Hambleton

I believe one of the responsibilities of General Practitioners is to facilitate patients’ interactions with the health system as a whole, and it’s particularly important for those with chronic ailments. For this reason, I am an early adopter of My Health Record – the secure, online digital summary of a patient’s pertinent medical information, including diagnosis, outcomes, medications, reactions and allergies.

Australia's digital health system is currently developing and evolving to best serve the community's needs, and arguably, people living in the most remote areas of the continent stand to benefit the most. Recently, Tim Kelsey, CEO, Prof Meredith Makeham, Chief Medical Advisor and I travelled to the Northern Territory to meet with a number of stakeholders, among them, Dr Sam Goodwin, the Executive Director of Medical and Clinical Services with the Central Australian Health Service. Having lived and worked in the area for 11 years, Dr Goodwin gives first-hand insights into the challenges faced by remote communities and how digital services can make a significant, positive difference.

Dr Sam Goodwin of the Central Australia Health Service

Dr Sam Goodwin
Executive Director of Medical and Clinical Services
with Central Australian Health Service

Tim Kelsey
Chief Executive Officer
Follow Tim Kelsey on Twitter @tkelsey1

South west of Alice Springs the bush has come to life: creams and shades of blue that aren’t predicted for this time of year flourish because of the unusual rains. We stop at a vantage point that marks the life of the great Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira who described in his watercolours the pale distended limbs of Valley Ghost gum trees and the rest of this unique outback world. Albert was a resident of Hermannsburg (or Ntaria in Aboriginal designation) and this is where we are heading: a community of 900 mainly indigenous people about an hour and a half from Alice.

I am standing with Taren, 32, in the corridor by the staff room in the health clinic. She is telling me about the bus. This is how it goes: there is a 12 seater bus that drives every day into Alice Springs to take patients to their appointments at the hospital. On an average day, twice that number of local residents need a seat on that bus – and those that are unlucky miss their appointment. Those that do get a seat face the additional complication of potential accommodation in Alice Springs – which is scarce and expensive. Imagine how that feels if you are an expectant mother: on your own in a hostel in Alice Springs awaiting your outpatient appointment with a midwife.

As the Chief Medical Adviser for the Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency), I'm privileged to have the opportunity to meet with many inspiring people – clinicians, health consumers, researchers and innovators who help us think about the way our organisation can best serve Australians to get a good deal out of our investment in digital health services and technologies. We are delivering key services at the Agency that will enable our health system to remain world-leading in its innovation and ability to support a high standard of health and well-being for our citizens. Our continued efforts to improve and expand our understanding of how our services underpin and interrelate to the broader health and care ecosystem depends upon us continually looking outwards, reflecting and learning about future directions for health and care clinical priorities, as well as focussing on striving for internal excellence in our organisation.