In the digital age, we have become accustomed to having access to information at our fingertips via internet-connected technology such as PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
However, these same technologies have proved to be a major barrier to the successful digital transformation of the health sector.
The pandemic saw health providers embrace digital services such as telehealth, booking platforms, and e-prescriptions. However, the legacy is these same providers often work across a patchwork of platforms, apps, and modalities, with little coordination between patient databases, practice management systems (PMS), and electronic health records (EHR).
Within a single hospital, this fragmentation means communication and data sharing between departments and digital devices can be impossible. When important patient information is siloed, there can be serious consequences for patient safety and negative impacts on continuity of care.
The solution is digital integration and systems interoperability.
What is digital integration and systems interoperability?
In the health sector, digital integration refers to the digital dialogue that occurs between software technologies, enabling seamless access to patient data at the point of care, regardless of patient and provider location.
While digital interoperability refers to the ability of disparate platforms, apps, and devices to freely connect and communicate within the digitally integrated health ecosystem, regardless of organisational, regional, and national boundaries.
When software and hardware systems communicate securely with each other, it creates an interconnected health environment based around information portability. Workflows improve when clinicians can collect, store, share and retrieve important health data, right across a patient health journey, regardless of where they are practising, or which platform, device, or app they are using.
During their lifetime, a patient will have many encounters with health professionals; being able to access and manipulate the health data collected across practice management systems and electronic health records, promotes coordinated and collaborative care, and ultimately improves health outcomes.
According to the Australian Digital Health Agency, universal access to digital health information can:
- reduce avoidable hospitalisations, adverse drug reactions and duplication of tests,
- ensure that healthcare professionals have access to key patient information in the event of a medical emergency, or when a patient is away from home,
- improve the coordination of care and planning for people with chronic and complex conditions.