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Interoperability: better connections for better care

Published 30 May 2019

What does interoperability look like, and how do we get there? Join the national conversation to have your say.

The digitisation of healthcare in Australia is not a new initiative; the transition has been underway for many years. Paper-based notes are no longer the norm in hospitals, pharmacies and general practice, as healthcare providers embrace the benefits of clinical information systems for storing patient information and flexibly delivering it on demand. However, the introduction of these systems has been a gradual, piecemeal process, resulting in disconnected silos of patient information across the country. A CSIRO study on the use of electronic health records highlighted the lack of uniformity among the systems in use, the variability of the data captured, the siloing effect of disparate, disconnected systems, and the resulting potential risks.

Just as the first wave of digitisation (from paper to clinical information systems) yielded improvements in the safety and efficiency of healthcare delivery, we are now ready to unlock further benefits by developing seamless and secure connections between previously disconnected clinical systems.

In other words, we are now ready to pursue the goal of interoperability in Australian healthcare to give both consumers and providers access to health information from disparate sources, ensuring that clinical decisions are made in the light of all the relevant data available, and delivering better care as a result.

A glimpse of the future at St Stephen’s hospital

St Stephen’s Hospital in Hervey Bay Queensland is demonstrating on a small scale some of the benefits of improved interoperability. The digital integration of different systems within the hospital enables clinicians to deliver better care more safely, and helps patients feel more supported and engaged.

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Greater levels of interoperability in Australian healthcare will enable comparable levels of care not just within institutions, but between institutions and other points of care. An interoperable Australian healthcare system would considerably mitigate the well-documented safety issues associated with transitions of care, improving safety, convenience, and overall patient outcomes.

Let’s work together

To make this vision of an interoperable health system a reality, we need to work together. The Agency is facilitating a national conversation about what interoperability should look like, the steps needed to achieve that goal, and our development priorities.

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So let’s hear from you. How can interoperability make your life better? What are your personal priorities for better connections? What do you think our national priorities should be? We need your input to ensure that the eventual agreed solution embraces all viewpoints, since the benefits of interoperability are for all of us.

See also: Better Connections – Your health, your say

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