Funding to encourage adoption of secure messaging in health

The Australian Digital Health Agency has announced it will provide $A30,000 to software vendors to integrate new standards into their existing clinical information and secure messaging systems, as part of the push to eliminate paper-based messaging in healthcare.

It says many healthcare professionals are already using secure messaging platforms; however, many of these platforms are not compatible with one another, meaning healthcare professionals cannot send information to one another and instead need to use unreliable fax machines or the post.

All private vendors that currently operate a clinical information or secure messaging system with secure messaging capabilities, at two different sites as a minimum, are eligible for the $30,000 bonus.

Consumers Health Forum of Australia Chief Executive Officer, Leanne Wells said, “A modern, connected health system requires modern communication technologies. Manila folders of paper records and fax machines aren’t good enough in the 21st century – secure, robust and interoperable messaging is fundamental to creating the patient-centred health system Australia needs and deserves.”

General practitioner and advisor to the Agency, Dr Nathan Pinskier said, “This is an important next step on the path to mainstream adoption of secure electronic communications in healthcare. Secure communications will provide more efficient, safer and direct transfer of clinical information between healthcare providers. Numerous coroners’ reports have highlighted the risks of a continued reliance on legacy systems such as fax and post. It’s time for healthcare as an industry and profession to adopt 21st century communications solutions.”

The software industry, the clinical community and the Agency agreed on new interoperability standards for secure messaging in 2018 that will ensure different systems can talk to each other.

Medical Software Industry Association Chief Executive Officer, Emma Hossack said, “The Medical Software Industry supports interoperability and this project is clearly an important component. Our members have put in considerable time and resources and welcome the offer to stimulate the work that needs to be done.”

This initiative has been put in place to accelerate the adoption of these new standards by software developers following two successful proof-of-concept projects in 2018.

All private vendors that currently operate a clinical information or secure messaging system with secure messaging capabilities, at two different sites as a minimum, are eligible.

“Providing patient care in collaboration with other clinicians requires the safe and timely sharing of their health information,” said Agency Chief Medical Adviser, Clinical Professor Meredith Makeham.

“The inability of healthcare providers to share information quickly can lead to communication breakdowns, which can contribute to poor health outcomes and unnecessary duplication of care.”

“This is a significant step toward ensuring healthcare providers can use the tools they already have to send information to their patients and other clinicians providing those patients care, and in turn provide safer and more comprehensive care.”

“We are delighted by the way the software industry has collaborated on the development of these standards, and are pleased to be supporting them in accelerating the rollout,” said Agency Chief Operating Officer Bettina McMahon.

“We are now moving from a proof of concept and standards development stage to one of national scaling, and this is a step in that direction. We are working closely with governments and the health sector to accelerate take up of software that meets the standards”.

Further information is available on the Agency’s website .