Digitising Health: A Victorian Government roadmap

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Technology is at the centre of a new strategy to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Victorians. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has released Digitising health, a roadmap to transform the way healthcare is delivered and accessed by the community with a focus on health information and related technologies.

Digitising health provides a blueprint to drive the delivery of person-centred health and wellbeing through digital health technology. At the centre of the strategy is the desire that, no matter where we live, Victorians are able to access the health services they need closer to home.

digital health

Seven digital critical success factors underpin the activities encapsulated by the Digitising health strategy:

  1. leadership and governance
  2. change and adoption
  3. standards and interoperability
  4. digital workplace capability
  5. information governance
  6. cyber security
  7. investment

Interestingly these seven success factors are not health specific, nor necessarily technology specific, yet they are absolutely fundamental to the successful delivery of any large and complex project or strategy. They also point to how government will structure many large programs of work that are enabled by technology, within a formal governance framework.

A further success factor discussed in the Digitising health strategy is stakeholder management. Victoria operates a devolved health service model, with DHHS providing the role of a ‘health systems manager’ and local health services responsible for strategy and investment decision-making. However, the strategy recognises the need for stronger governance to support this devolved model and thus establishes two peak bodies:

  • The Digital Health Strategy Advisory Committee, which recognises the need for formal and regular engagement, with a diverse representation of senior members of the health sector on strategic technology issues; and
  • Health Technology Solutions Client Advisory Committee, which replaces the Health Shared Services Council and reflects the broader set of responsibilities for Health Technology Solutions, in particular the shift in focus from supporting specific products to providing technology solutions aligned with sector needs.

Six building blocks to drive the transition to digital health

Within this governance framework, the strategy discusses six building blocks to drive the transition to digital health.

1. Implementing digital clinical systems: Victoria will continue replacing legacy and paper-based systems with up-to-date patient administration and departmental systems (such as for theatre, radiology and pathology), and expanding the deployment of electronic medical record systems (including medications management) to reduce the reliance on paper-based systems when delivering clinical care.

2. Sector-wide shared clinical information: Victoria will increase its commitment to supporting clinicians and patients as they traverse the continuum of care. Relevant health and wellbeing information will be shared by those actively supporting the person, from an integrated and continuum of care perspective.

3. Sector-wide clinical-grade integration and interoperability: Victoria will address current gaps to provide a robust, secure and interoperable health network and systems infrastructure that provides equity of access for all individuals.

4. Person-centred and place-based health and wellbeing: Victoria’s investment in digital health technology will reflect the transition from provider-centred healthcare towards preventive health and personalised pathways centred on the individual and responsive to their needs, location and preferences.

5. Preventive health and early intervention: Victoria will continue identifying and investing in initiatives that focus on prevention and allow early intervention to reduce the occurrence of chronic disease and start the journey to health and wellbeing early in the life of all Victorians.

6. Applied health research, education and analytics: Victoria will continue to focus on the development and recognition of health informatics to ensure that digital technology facilitates the proactive identification of consumer healthcare needs to better position the sector to meet future challenges. De-identified health datasets will be available for research, with bioinformatics and genomic medical research strengthened to underpin personal medicine and deliver significant impact across the health sector and its clients.

Finally, a set of key principles will guide digital health investment decision making:

  1. The health system will operate as an integrated whole for the benefit of patients.
  2. Local health organisations will be responsible and accountable for their local health information and communication technology systems as a key enabler to deliver local services, within the context of Victorian and national interoperability standards and systems.
  3. Digital health investment will be based on specific business needs and the identification and demonstration of local or system-wide benefits.
  4. Digital health knowledge and skills will be shared for the benefit of the Victorian health sector.

Implementation and Investment

The strategy acknowledges that it will take several years to implement Digitising health. The timeframe depends both on investment and the readiness of the health services to move along the digital health continuum. Change management and stakeholder management will be critical success factors.

In implementing the strategy, digital health business plans will be developed for each of the next three years (2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19); these business plans will detail the strategic priorities to be delivered within those periods.

Investment will be targeted at initiatives linked to clinical themes, while recognising the urgency of local imperatives, such as reducing reliance on obsolete, at-risk legacy systems.

In order to support digital investment, DHHS operates the Health Projects Fund, with funds available for 2016-17 ($10 million), 2017-18 ($10 million) and 2018-19 ($20 million). These funds are directed at delivering digital technology projects for the benefit of the health sector, and cover projects undertaken by health agencies, Digital Technology Branch and departmental health program areas.

The Victorian Government also committed funding though the 2016 Victorian State Budget:

  • $10 million directed at Clinical Technology Refresh – targeted at replacing obsolete and highest at-risk clinical technology across the health sector, building on a $10 million investment in 2015;
  • $5 million for the Parkville Precinct to scope and develop a project implementation plan for an EMR deployment across precinct partners; and
  • $29.5 million for the deployment of a Real Time Prescription Monitoring system, which includes an ICT component; the project is being managed by the department’s Health Business Unit.

Capital investment projects from previous years, such as new buildings, have encapsulated amounts for both enabling technologies and technology initiatives such as EMRs. Recent examples of this are the Royal Children’s Hospital, New Bendigo Hospital Project and the Box Hill Hospital redevelopment.

Industry Engagement

The strategy finishes with a table that highlights the top ten projects assessed as the most pressing to progress the six strategic themes contained within the strategy, and which have been funded from the Health Projects Fund.

Just like any engagement with government, technology and health providers that want to engage with the DHHS, or health service providers, should be familiar with this strategy, the benefits and outcomes, and also funded opportunities.

Download the Digitising Health strategy

Also read our recent guest post by Dr Steve Hodgkinson, CIO of DHHS, about Procurement in the age of Platform+Agile.

1 comments in this article

  1. Steve Bungay

    It is our long held position that paper and rudimentary electronic must be moved to current digital age and be made future looking. The future is here now!
    This transformation of legacy systems to new age systems is our core expertise and we are looking to engage with DHHS to make it happen.

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