“We need to raise the bar”


Digital Health panel: Meredith Makeham; Dr Nathan Pinskier; Professor Johanna Westbrook; Dr Teresa Zayas Caban; Dr Bronwyn Evans; Dr Shane Jackson

PSA president says current levels of med-related hospitalisations are not good enough, but pharmacists can’t help without access to data

Pharmacists are expected to contribute to healthcare and reduce medication errors in an information vacuum, PSA national president Dr Shane Jackson told delegates at the inaugural International Digital Health Symposium held at UNSW Sydney on Wednesday.

“If you look at it from a community pharmacy perspective, [pharmacists] don’t have the data,” said Dr Jackson.

“The information they have is the dispensing information of the person.

“We expect pharmacists to contribute to healthcare and reduce hospital admissions in an information vacuum.”

Dr Jackson said the situation is dire considering the high levels of hospital admissions related to medication errors.

“We should be aghast. We shouldn’t be tolerating 230,000 hospitalisations because of medication misadventure per year.”

He added that while billions are going into funding hepatitis C medicines in order to cure the disease, the government should be thinking about investing as much into medicines misadventure.

“Digital health, in my mind, is the medication [solution] for eradication of medication errors.

“We need to raise the bar and say ‘we need to do better’. If we do raise the bar, a lot of those problems will be solvable.”

Fellow speakers at the symposium agreed that Australia needs to move forward in the digital space.

“Healthcare is somewhat behind many other industries in terms of disruption, and we hope we can get in front of the curve in healthcare,” said Jim Birch AM, Chair of the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA).

“There is much more that we can do to realise the health potential of Australians, giving consumers more control of their healthcare.”

Tim Kelsey, CEO of the ADHA, pointed out as an example that only a tiny percentage of healthcare in the Northern Territory that could be provided by telehealth actually is.

“I feel such a privilege to be head of the ADHA, because with all of our collaborators, we have a really urgent problem we have to solve. We have one of the best health systems in the world but we’re not doing the basics.

“This has got to be about healthier lives, technology is just one enabler.”

Is My Health Record the answer?

Mr Kelsey says My Health Record draws on sources of information from many parts of the infrastructure (GPs, hospitals, specialists, pathology, allied health, pharmacists and aged care), with the benefits including reducing adverse drug events, reducing medication misadventure and the associated hospital admissions, and “frankly saving lives”.

“We’re desperate to get rid of the whirring of the fax machine in clinical practice – we should all have a bonfire of faxes. We just can’t afford to waste any more time to get the digital basics in place.

“We need to do this today and tomorrow for our children and their children.”

Dr Jackson said the My Health Record system will help bridge the information gap for pharmacists and other health professionals.

“With pharmacists, having that data will allow them an opportunity to help solve some of those issues” he said, referring to reducing rates of medication misadventure.

“My Health Record in Australia is an absolute game changer because it allows us to change some of these issues.”

Michael Keenan
Minister Michael Keenan

Emerging technologies are providing “vast opportunities” in the area of digital health and none more so than with My Health Record, said Michael Keenan, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation.

“I’m constantly reminding my staff to be explaining to people what we’re specifically doing to enhance their lives,” Minister Keenan told symposium delegates.

“Because that’s ultimately what digital transformation is all about.

“My Health Record will put control of personal information and data into the hands of patients.

“It creates a more collaborative approach to healthcare decision, it can be available whenever and wherever you need it, and it can improve the way prescription medicines are monitored.”

The Australian Government has a very ambitious agenda, said Minister Keenan.

“Our key priorities are to move more government services online, to improve the user experience… and very importantly, to harness the enormous power of the data that the government stores.”

The symposium was hosted by the Australian Digital Health Agency, The George Institute for Global Health and UNSW Sydney.

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