Opinion: It's time to shift the dial on digital health

By Khaled Chakli, Director of Leadership & Policy, Australasian Institute of Digital Health
Friday, 25 November, 2022

Opinion: It's time to shift the dial on digital health

It is the right of every Australian to expect a consumer-centric, connected and digitally capable healthcare system. Australia’s pandemic response proved that it’s possible.

Digital enablement could define twenty-first century health care.

For decades, there have been calls for the integration and use of technology in health care, its enablement, and its delivery.

Despite this, progress has been frustratingly slow.

Many may argue that this slow progress is a measure of the scale of the challenge — not the willingness or need in the community.

However, over the last 24 months, we’ve witnessed the expedited adoption and scaling of digital health solutions across the Australian healthcare landscape.

This willingness to propagate the pervasion of ICT throughout the healthcare system, and to digitally enable consumer-centric health services is proof that it can be done.

But to maintain this momentum, there’s much we need to do.

Shifting the dial

The COVID-19 pandemic heralded a new era of quasi-technocratic governance. The scientific and health advice of experts was placed at the centre of government pandemic-response decision-making.

However, this approach is beginning to wane, and the voices of experts are being eclipsed by political messaging.

This risks the knowledge and insight gained from the rapid adoption and scaling of digital health technologies not being adequately considered in the current discourse on the future of Australian health care.

That’s why, through extensive consultation of AIDH constituent units over the last six months, the AIDH has developed Shifting the Dial — a high-level strategy to focus and amplify the institute’s leadership and advocacy efforts.

Shifting the Dial aims to ensure that the digital health sector has a voice at the table, and that the expertise of our Fellows and members is duly heard and considered now, and into the future.

Built on the foundation of the quadruple aim: enhanced consumer experience; improved population health and health equity; reduced costs and better value care; and an improved work-life for healthcare professionals, the strategy has three pillars — each with three focus areas.

These pillars and focus areas are designed to focus our efforts on the areas of greatest need: to lead, elevate and move the national conversation on health and health care; and to achieve the most significant impact towards ‘Shifting the Dial’ on our transition to a digital health future.

The first step in further developing the Shifting the Dial strategy was the establishment of Expert Advisory Groups (EAGs), which will be the driving force behind the continual refinement and delivery of the strategy. 

There are three EAGs, each corresponding to a pillar of Shifting the Dial.

  1. New business models of health care
    The first expert advisory group will lead the conversation for change, for a sustainable health system that is accessible, consumer-centric, and designed to engage consumers and patients. The expert advisors will explore new ideas and models around healthcare delivery and funding.
  2. Building trust and confidence in health and data
    This group will look at issues confronting many Australians such as using and sharing data for the benefit of individuals and the health system more broadly. In today’s digital world, trust is everything. We know patients and health consumers need to be brought along the digital journey if we are to leverage all the benefits of a connected health system.
  3. Building the digital health workforce
    This group will advocate for the advancement of digital health skills and capabilities in the health workforce. As Australia’s peak body for digital health professionals, the Institute has made digital health workforce development a strategic focus for many years, and already has strong collaborative ties with numerous clinical and industry bodies.

The Institute is looking forward to working with its expert advisors, Fellows and members during 2023 on its leadership and advocacy agenda.

Image credit: iStockphoto.com/NicoElNino

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