Pharmacies, emergency departments to go digital

Left to right: David Quilty, Brad Butt, Thanh Le, and Tim Kelsey.

The Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) and Pharmacy Guild of Australia (the Guild) have signed an agreement to work together to help build the digital health capabilities of community pharmacies and advance the efficiency, quality and delivery of healthcare.

Both strong advocates for the widespread adoption and use of the My Health Record system by community pharmacists to better the health of the public, the Agency and the Guild have now entered into a collaborative partnership aimed at driving adoption and use of the My Health Record system by community pharmacies (supported by education and training) and maximising the medicines safety benefits.

The role of community pharmacists in delivering proper use of medicines is more important than ever, with an aging population and the growing prevalence of complex, chronic disease. All medicines have the potential for side effects and can interact with other medicines. Each year 230,000 people are admitted to hospital, and many more people experience reduced quality of life, as a result of unintended side effects of their medicines. This comes at a cost to the system of more than $1.2 billion.

“The Agency and the Guild have a mutual interest in continuing to develop and deliver community pharmacy digital health that will lead to significant improvements in the quality and delivery of care to consumers.

Specifically, the Agency and Guild will be working on optimising connectivity to the My Health Record system through dedicated community pharmacy support, including continuing professional development and shared care planning, transitional care, telehealth and interoperability with pharmacy clinical service IT platforms,” said agency chief executive Tim Kelsey.

“The Guild welcomes this collaboration with the Agency as a step towards optimised integration of community pharmacies in the My Health Record system. Community pharmacists have long been early adopters and innovators in digital health, and this will spur the sector on to make an even bigger contribution,” guild executive director David Quilty said.

Digital records pilot for hospital patients

On the hospital front, patients requiring urgent medical care will benefit from a hospital emergency department pilot that gives clinicians fast, secure access to health information such as allergies and medicines that may not otherwise be available in hospital information systems.

The pilot will help drive the uptake of My Health Record, a digital system that enables healthcare providers to share secure health data and improves the safety and quality of patient care. To date, over 5 million people have a My Health Record and over 10,143 healthcare providers are connected.

“Where My Health Record is being utilised, we are seeing reductions in duplicated testing and lower hospital re-admission rates.

“However, we need to identify potential barriers to the uptake of My Health Record in hospitals, and enable better integration with primary and secondary healthcare providers,” Mr Kelsey said.

The pilot was announced by the Agency in partnership with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Commission CEO Adjunct Professor Debora Picone AM said that when a patient presents to an emergency department, hospitals can have limited information about the patient and a limited window to provide lifesaving treatment.

“It is time-consuming for hospital staff to gain information on the patient’s medicines, what their GP has been doing to manage the condition, and the procedures provided by other hospitals. This time could be better used treating the patient,” Professor Picone said.

The pilot is based on the successful My Health Record participation trials conducted by the Nepean Blue Mountains and the Northern Queensland Primary Health Networks. These trials demonstrated that clinicians working in hospital emergency departments were able to obtain valuable additional information by accessing My Health Record in real time.

The pilot is expected to take two years with an interim report due to the Agency in June 2018.


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