HealthMarch 14, 2024

What does Australia’s digital health vision mean for nurses?

The newly released Digital Health Blueprint 2023-2033 outlines the Australian government’s vision to make the health system more efficient and responsive to state-of-the-art technologies.

The blueprint acknowledges that better use of data will make the system more connected, while seeking to equip healthcare staff to adapt and thrive in a digitally assisted environment. This includes ensuring health information follows patients throughout their interactions so they can make better informed decisions about their treatment.

Healthcare staff, including nurses, will be able to access that real-time information, so they can deliver safer and more personalised care. Ensuring the secure use of health data is a top priority. The 10-year plan includes a range of initiatives designed to help steer the healthcare system towards an integrated, inclusive, and person-centred healthcare experience.

A responsive and connected health system and a digitally empowered workforce are at the centre of a new Australian government plan to transform healthcare. In December 2023, the government released its Digital Health Blueprint, outlining a 10-year vision to increase the digital capabilities and connectivity of the health system. The aim is for all Australians to receive coordinated care underpinned by digital technology.

Driving towards a digital future

This roadmap to delivering a more person-centred and sustainable health system by 2033 is targeting several key outcomes, such as:

  • Ensuring a person’s health information follows them as they navigate the health system
  • Enabling health professionals to provide connected care with confidence
  • Making the health system more responsive to emerging technologies, while enabling the safe and secure use of health data.

The blueprint will seek to expand telehealth services, improve digital records, develop the national electronic prescription delivery service, and promote the use of self-monitoring apps and devices. Some of the initiatives include default sharing of key health information with My Health Record, starting with pathology and diagnostic imaging reports. For nurses, easy access to their patients’ detailed records has significantly cut down time spent chasing up information.

There will be a national framework for standardised electronic medication charts in hospitals, which have been shown to reduce administration errors and adverse drug events. Nurse-led practices will be eligible for funding under MyMedicare, a voluntary registration process that links patients to their general practice and primary care teams. However, the mission is not without its challenges, such as privacy concerns, barriers to access, and varying levels of digital literacy.

Working to protect Australians’ trust in data is a priority, with the blueprint highlighting that “trusted, timely and accessible use of digital and data underpins a personalised and connected health and wellbeing experience for all Australians.”

Where we are now

Australians have so far readily adopted digital records and e-prescriptions. Hospitals across the country are replacing paper-based administrative processes with digital systems, with integrated and streamlined workflows allowing nurses to focus more on direct patient care.

Telehealth services expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and enabled people to attend consultations by phone or video call. This service was especially welcomed by those in regional, rural, and remote Australian communities.

As virtual care becomes the new reality, My Home Hospital in South Australia is an example of a nationally accredited virtual hospital that provides acute care, including postoperative care, from the comfort of the patient’s home. This virtual hospital handled more than 10,000 patients by the end of 2023.

In addition to visits by nurses, virtual care patients receive virtual specialist attention, imaging tests, blood tests, medications, and meals. Wearable devices monitor vital signs such as pulse, temperature, and blood pressure, reducing the need for manual examinations.

Virtual emergency departments are also being rolled out across the country, in which people with non-life-threatening health issues are connected via video call to a team of emergency nurses and doctors.

However, according to the blueprint, 48% of healthcare providers feel that Australia has yet to maximise the potential of technology to optimise health outcomes. This is reflected in the 2024 Newsweek ranking of the best smart hospitals worldwide, which Australia placed 14th of 28 countries. Seven Australian hospitals made the 330-hospital list, with the highest ranked being Royal Melbourne Hospital, at 111.

Priming the workforce

Preparing healthcare staff for an innovation-driven health system, including virtual care, is at the forefront of the Digital Health Blueprint.

Smart technologies can assist a workforce that is under pressure to deliver quality care, but it requires an upskilled team that can competently and confidently use them.

Nurses are increasingly being equipped with various digital tools in their day-to-day practice so digital literacy has become a fundamental skill. The National Nursing and Midwifery Digital Health Capability Framework outlines the core digital skills, knowledge, and behaviours required for professional practice.

The 10-year blueprint plan also touches on skills development and moving towards national consistency in education and training. It has backed an online hub for information and resources about digital health career pathways. And in releasing the blueprint, the Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler said: “(It) recognises that over the next 10 years, secure and standardised data sharing between clinical systems, in real-time, will ensure our health workforce has the tools it needs to provide multidisciplinary, team-based care, particularly to patients with complex conditions or in regional, rural and remote Australia.”

Evolving technologies are consistently driving changes in the ways nurses carry out their duties and deliver care. Continuing to develop nurses’ digital preparedness will be key as the nation works to realise the full potential of digital technologies as it faces future healthcare challenges.

Find out more about how Lippincott® Solutions helps nurses develop their digital literacy.

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