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Blog: Real momentum for national interoperability plan

27 October 2023
By Kate McDonald
Image: iStock

It’s not often that Pulse+IT finds itself getting overly enthusiastic about things in general, but we do admit to feeling unusually positive about developments in interoperability, especially since the MedInfo conference in July and the launch of Australia’s national healthcare interoperability plan.

We’ve written about quite a few of these over our 17 years covering the sector, and quite honestly the last time we got our hopes up was when we first heard about FHIR back in 2012. A lot has come and gone since then, including various attempts at interoperability roadmaps from NEHTA and ADHA, but there has been a distinct lack of two things essential to the whole caper: money and political will.

Certainly some money was set aside for standards development back in the IT-014 committee days but that all went to pot amid the notoriously rancorous breakdown in relations between the standards community and various government bodies. ADHA’s former COO Bettina McMahon struggled mightily to get things going with the industry, and there has been some good work done since by ADHA’s interoperability and standards teams.

Nothing, though, gets things moving like money and power, and that’s what seems to have sparked what appears to be real momentum in getting things done through the interoperability plan. Pulling all the legislative levers as well as permanent funding has got things going, and absent another global pandemic, we can’t see this momentum running out of puff too soon.

In addition to chief digital officer Peter O’Halloran’s announcement of the plan itself, the joint speech by ADHA’s Amanda Cattermole and DoHAC’s Daniel McCabe at MedInfo was fascinating for its positivity. Health Minister Mark Butler appears to have given the go-ahead to the duo to pick up the baton and hare off with it, and they have done so. The creation of the Sparked FHIR accelerator is another worthy initiative, but it will be legislating for sharing health information by default that will be the real turning point in ensuring change. It can’t come quickly enough.

ADHA is promising some nice transparency too, releasing the first of what it says will be quarterly updates on what is still a very ambitious plan. The plan has 44 actions, of which 27 are to be initiated this financial year. According to the update, some actions have begun earlier than scheduled due to the share by default policy, particularly in the identity, standards and information sharing areas.

One area we are really keen to see progress on is interoperability between general practice and residential aged care facility clinical information systems – yes, we know, everyone’s heard that one before. The other is in consent management. DoHAC is working on options for a health information exchange legislative framework to will hopefully give consumers more control over their health information and how it is shared. This is something New Zealand is working on too, but it’s a global issue.

Consent is one of the five key areas of the Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP), which also has an interoperability maturity model that ADHA is looking at. The GDHP was kicked off by former ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey back in 2018 and is still going, with the interoperability stream led at the moment by the US Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). We didn’t have much time for this organisation when it started and we are yet to be convinced entirely what the point is, but the Europeans in particular seem to be keen to get it rolling again. We’ll keep an eye on its progress too.

That brings us to our poll question for the week:

Are you confident that the goals of the interoperability plan are achievable?

Vote here and leave your comments below.

Last week we asked: Will virtual care be sustainable if financial ROI is not clear? Most said no – 68 per cent were in the negative versus 32 per cent who were confident.

So we also asked why. Here’s what you said.

2 comments on “Blog: Real momentum for national interoperability plan”

  1. It should be noted that the scope of ” sharing health information by default” is currently only sharing of pathology and diagnostic imaging reports to My Health Record.

    • Last week, we asked: Are you confident that the goals of the interoperability plan are achievable? Most were but it wasn’t a bit margin: 60 per cent said yes, 40 per cent said no.

      We also asked: if you said yes, how will the goals be measured? If no, what are the main barriers?

      Here’s what you said:

      – Profit motive

      – A more connected experience for the patient

      – We may get incremental improvements but not the lofty goals

      – No real quantifiable targets

      – The big vendors still want to lock you into their products

      – Suitable metrics that confirm take up and utilisation

      – Government bureaucracy

      – Clinical benefits will be difficult to discern, but clinician and patient satisfaction with the systems available to them will be measurable.

      – Number of deployments and applications built using FHIR resources…Government globally mandating FHIR solutions, further driving adoptions. Increasing number of vendor applications using FHIR based API’s that are standards compliant. Adoption , Adoption , Adoption. Growing number of vendors offering real solutions not vapourware.

      – No mandate to force the vendors, and under skilled ADHA team will result in failure.

      • Name - Pulse+IT

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