An end to paper

Eliminating paper-based messaging in healthcare is now a step closer, says the Australian Digital Health Agency

Following a successful trial in 2018, the Agency has now confirmed that it is partnering with 42 organisations to ensure healthcare providers are able to easily share information when using different secure messaging platforms across 56 separate software products.

The Agency says that eliminating paper-based messaging in healthcare is a priority for the National Digital Health Strategy.

The Agency has been working with the software industry and healthcare providers to develop standards to improve the secure exchange of healthcare information, it said.

Most clinicians can only correspond electronically with healthcare providers who use the same secure messaging software. However these enhancements will allow clinicians to more easily address messages to healthcare providers who are on other secure messaging platforms and are aimed at ensuring messages and acknowledgements are sent in standard formats.

Breaking down these silos will allow clinicians to achieve the full potential of secure messaging and will support the move to “axe” both the fax and the scanner, the Agency said.

GP Clinical Advisor to the Agency’s Secure Messaging Program, Dr Nathan Pinskier, said ensuring providers can communicate quickly, easily and securely allows them to provide safer and more efficient care.

“When patients are visiting different doctors and healthcare providers, or they are referred by a doctor to a hospital or vice versa, it is increasingly important that information relating to that patient’s ongoing care – such as referrals, specialist letters, and discharge summaries – can be exchanged by secure electronic communications,” Dr Pinskier said.

“The current work program being undertaking with these organisations will make it easier for healthcare providers to use secure messaging platforms by enhancing the software available to them in terms of functionality, useability and interoperability.”

Australian Digital Health Agency Chief Operating Officer, Bettina McMahon, said secure provider-to-provider communication is a key component of digitally enabled and coordinated care across the Australian health sector.

“We have made significant progress on secure messaging by working with industry on a provider directory model that breaks down barriers between clinicians, while still leveraging the investment that the secure messaging industry has made to date.” Ms McMahon said.

“This is the next step that will ensure those new standards are adopted quickly so GPs, hospitals, specialists and other health practitioners can reap the full benefits of secure messaging, which include timelier receipt of clinical information and not having to chase or resend referrals.

“It also means we are one step closer to retiring fax machines, which is a priority of the National Digital Health Strategy agreed to by all Australian governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council.”

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