Opinion: Australia must look to Canada for digital health best practice

Wednesday, 12 July, 2023

Opinion: Australia must look to Canada for digital health best practice

Australia’s federal and state governments should look to Canada as the template for how best to implement a successful digital health strategy, according to Brad Porter, CEO, Orion Health.

Porter was speaking on the sidelines of the MedInfo 2023 conference in Sydney, where Orion Health provided an overview of its role in the rollout of the Digital First for Health strategy in Canada’s most-populous province, Ontario, and its work delivering integrated patient-family community-centred care in the province of Alberta.

“I have publicly praised the Albanese government’s healthcare funding initiatives in the May Budget as an example of what New Zealand’s political parties should be promising ahead of the 14 October election.

“Australia’s states and territories are also committed to implementing digital health initiatives but like their federal counterparts, and New Zealand, they need to be bolder and move faster.

“Australian governments are investing many hundreds of millions of dollars in digital health, strengthening Medicare, which they should, but if they want to see a real return on investment, they need to look at proven market disruption that has made an impact — that’s Canada.”

Porter said governments shouldn’t be seeing digital as ‘just another IT project’ but rather a way of transforming care delivery, relieving pressure on GPs, Emergency Departments (EDs) and workers in acute settings by triaging needs and directing people to the care they need rather than funnelling them through ED waiting rooms — so straight to radiology or a virtual nurse consult.

“Canada boasts bold approaches like Ontario’s Digital First Healthcare transformation — which has seen Orion Health deliver its world-first at scale Digital Front Door solution to a population of 15 million — as well as Alberta and other provinces rolling out seamless shared care records and province-wide Health Information Exchanges.

“The Canadian approach has put interoperability at the heart of digital health, and they are now seeing the benefits. Australia should look at how Ontario Health Teams are being introduced to organise and deliver care that is more connected to patients in their local communities,” Porter said.

“There are 54 Ontario Health Teams across the province that have been approved through a standardised intake and assessment process.”

The Ontario Digital First for Health strategy provides:

  • More virtual care options: Expanded availability of video visits and other virtual care tools such as secure messaging. Additionally, providers can use a variety of virtual care technologies that best meet the needs of their patients.
  • Expanded access to online appointment booking: Patients can book appointments that best meet their needs.
  • Greater data access for patients: More patients can review their secure health record online, give providers all the information they need wherever they need it and make informed choices about their care.
  • Better, more connected tools for frontline providers: More providers can access patient records stored across multiple health service providers to provide better, faster care.
  • Data integration and predictive analytics: Providers face fewer barriers to integrating and using secure health information to manage health resources and improve patient care. This has led to improvements such as earlier intervention and better management of chronic disease, and reduced the cost of health care.

“Digital First for Health is central to the government’s efforts to transform the healthcare system so that it is integrated, sustainable and patient-centred,” Porter said.

“Strong digital capabilities are a critical enabler for system integration and information sharing within health teams and the healthcare system so that patients have a choice on how they engage with the healthcare system and receive seamless care.”

Image caption: iStockphoto.com/paulfourk

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