Australia: National Healthcare Interoperability Plan up to 2028 focuses on high quality data, digitally enabled models of care, and sharing information across the healthcare system

The Australian Digital Health Agency has published the Australian National Healthcare Interoperability Plan up to 2028, focusing on high quality data, digitally enabled models of care, and sharing of information across the healthcare system.

The plan outlines healthcare interoperability as involving “an ecosystem of connected providers that conveniently and seamlessly shares high-quality data with easily understood meaning throughout the health system”.

It highlights that “the inability to easily share meaningful information between clinical systems remains the norm”, being seen by healthcare providers as “the major barrier to using digital health to improve healthcare for all Australians”.

The plan hopes to offer benefits for a range of stakeholders, including to individuals by promoting easy access to their information and improving outcomes; to healthcare providers by offering timely access to required information to enhance clinical decision-making and care; and to the health technology sector, by “having an agreed direction for interoperability that they can incorporate into their forward workplans”, and providing them with “the confidence to innovate”.

Key focuses

The plan sets out 10 principles to “accelerate the shift towards a more interoperable national healthcare system”, including making health information discoverable and accessible, using health information to support individual privacy and choice, promoting the use of national healthcare identifiers across the healthcare sectors, and ensuring that national digital health standards and specifications are agreed and adopted.

Priority action areas are also highlighted, including identity, or the ability to easily search for information about individuals, healthcare providers and healthcare provider organisations; standards; and information sharing.

Under the priority action area of innovation, the plan notes the success of implementing digital infrastructure that supports interoperability, such as the My Health Record system and electronic prescribing, as well as current work on building interoperable systems for digital imaging and rolling out Provider Connect Australia.

Planned actions

As well as setting out the plans for interoperability up to 2028, the plan sets out challenges for achieving “mature interoperability”, including the limited use of national healthcare identifiers, a “lack of trust” about the security of systems for exchanging health information, and a “lack of clarity” amongst healthcare providers relating to their obligations for handling and sharing health information.

For healthcare identifiers in particular, the plan notes actions such as promoting healthcare identifiers and creating them for newborns “as soon as possible after birth”, and the development of a “healthcare identifiers roadmap” which will report on adoption and review legislative issues.

In terms of standards, the plan looks to develop specifications and standards, develop a national digital health standards catalogue as a “user-friendly access point for digital health standards”, and perform a standards gap analysis to identify “the digital health standards that are required most urgently to accelerate the interoperability agenda”.

On information sharing, actions laid out by the plan include the agency and all health departments specifying interoperability requirements in procurement requests, promoting the use of an API Gateway to support interoperable information exchange, and collaborating with stakeholders to develop a model agreement “to be used by organisations holding personal health information”.

The agency also commits to engaging with health departments and stakeholders to review current policy tools and “assess the additional mechanisms required to support and accelerate interoperability”.

To read the Australian National Healthcare Interoperability Plan for 2023 – 2028 in full, please click here.

In other news from Australia, the federal government of Australia has signed a statement of collaboration with the United Kingdom and United States which will see Australia take part in discussions around green procurement, with particular focus on encouraging suppliers to disclose carbon emissions and setting targets for emission reductions.

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