Digital strategy a 'missed opportunity'

Latest News

As Australian governments grapple with the planned rapid expansion of the My Health Record one expert says change is required to ensure the system-wide opportunity of 'big data' is not missed.

Speaking to HealthDispatch, BCG's Ben Keneally questioned the current focus on e-health as a vehicle to ensure patient access to and control of their personal information, arguing the real benefit is in assessing outcomes and the value of interventions.

The Turnbull government allocated $374.2 million over two years in the 2017-18 Budget for the nationwide implementation of the My Health Record opt-out system.

Under the new system, every Australian will have a My Health Record by the end of 2018 unless they choose to opt-out. The system currently has over five million users.

According to Mr Kenneally, expansion of My Health Record is a welcome development, but ultimately the real benefit will be in the "systematic measurement of health outcomes."

He said in some European countries e-health has been used to create national registries that have enabled consumers, clinicians, policy-makers and government assess the performance of interventions, such as medicines, devices and procedures, and even individual hospitals.

"In places like Sweden and The Netherlands, rather than e-health being just about patient records, consumers have been able to assess the likely outcome from a particular intervention based on its overall performance. They have even been able to see outcomes by hospital," he said.

The approved 2018-22 strategy of the Australian Digital Health Agency is focussed on empowering consumers in relation to their personal information, streamlining communication between clinicians, electronic prescribing and dispensing, and creating a suite of accredited health apps.

Mr Kenneally said ultimately what really matters, and where e-health can make a huge difference, is the measurement of outcomes and the cost of achieving them by condition, patient group or disease.

"In Australia, we don't have a single entity with whole-of-patient responsibility, government, primary care or private health insurers, which makes the use of data for the transparent assessment of outcomes even more important.

"It is the vehicle through which consumers are genuinely empowered."

Despite the "missed opportunity", he said a focus on assessing and measure outcomes will emerge in the years ahead, driven by ongoing developments in technology and the enduring challenge of affordability. "Governments and consumers will want to pay for interventions that work, while providers will want to show their interventions work," he added.