The 23rd ISfTeH International Conference has started. Until Saturday, the attendees will cruise on the Baltic Sea between Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. MedicalView spoke in advance with Anthony Maeder, Professor of Digital Health Systems & Co-Director Flinders Digital Health Research Centre College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Flinders University, about the state of Australian eHealth policies and the impact it has on its citicens.

What is the status quo of the eHealth policies in Australia?

Australia consists of six states and several territories which function as separate jurisdictions for healthcare delivery. About 2/3 of healthcare in Australia is publicly funded and 1/3 private. A number of eHealth innovations were developed earlier by state and public sector health organizations and these have informed the national agenda. A number of other related health technology developments (such as telehealth) have also contributed to a strong profile for eHealth.

Australia has been implementing a national EHR system (“My Health Record”) for all citizens over the past 10 years, led by the government through the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA). This program has led to adoption of national standards and development of many new eHealth supported health system processes. Generally these changes have been achieved through consensus agreements between the various health agencies funded by government budgets.

What are the next steps in Australian eHealth policies?

ADHA has developed an Australian National Digital Health Strategy entitled “Safe, seamless and secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia”, and is currently holding a national consultation on the proposed “framework for Action” operational plan.

It is anticipated that better availability of patient specific health information will help to increase quality and safety of the healthcare system. It is also seen as an important national resource to access this information for secondary use, bringing population and public health benefits.

How will those new policies impact the healthcare industry and on the patients?

Any new deployment of technology is potentially disruptive: the healthcare industry will need to undergo some transformation in its business models and accept greater expectations from consumers, as well as responding to the government-led EHR initiative.

I see one of eHealth’s impacts is the informing and empowering of citizens about their health, and this will lead to greater involvement and responsibility for consumers in managing their health status.

Your presentation is about “Smart Digital Solutions for Future Ageing”. What impact does the ageing demographic of our society have on its healthcare systems?

As a higher percentage of the population falls in the aged category, and lives longer while ageing, an increasing burden on the health system emerges due to expectations of maintaining current levels of aged care services.

What role does eHealth play in an ageing society?

A variety of eHealth contributions need to be developed, both to support citizens living independently while “Ageing in Place”, and those who are in clinically supervised facilities “Ageing with Care”. These can range from assistive apps such as exercise and medication reminders, to health journey monitoring through trajectory mapping and health information portals. Coordination of care information for an individual across an extended range of carers (who may include family and friends) and associated service providers can only be achieved effectively and at scale by using eHealth.

Which are the main aspects you’re going to present at the 23rd ISfTeH Conference?

A national consultation process was held across the various business and industry sectors involved in community and aged care services, to determine their views on priority areas for application of eHealth. A set of target projects was derived from this and has been proposed for implementation through the establishment of a national cooperative research centre for “Future Ageing”, which would host long-term projects (up to 10 years) to address these industry-identified problems.

What are the learning objectives of your presentation?

The presentation will explain the concept of the two branches of “Ageing in Place” and “Ageing with Care” which make up the continuum of ageing healthcare services, and will provide examples of the industry-led projects which were derived from the consultation process. It is hoped that the approach being take in Australia can provide a template for similar initiatives elsewhere.

Thank you, Professor Maeder!

Profile:

Professor Anthony Maeder.

Anthony Maeder is Professor of Digital Health Systems & Co-Director Flinders Digital Health Research Centre College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Flinders University. He joined Flinders University in April 2016 as Chair in Digital Health Systems from Western Sydney University, where he founded the Telehealth Research and Innovation Laboratory (THRIL) in 2010. Professor Maeder was president of the Australasian Telehealth Society in the period 2010-2012, and joined the Governing Board of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth in 2013. In 2015 he was appointed as the Fulbright Distinguished Professor in Life Sciences and Agriculture at Kansas State University.

Interview: Sascha Keutel