National E-Health Strategy
Government and private institutions provide healthcare in Australia. The funding model has undergone political polarization for shaping the national policy for healthcare by the government. The government of Australia takes care of the national health policies and implements several regulations and systems to continuously improve the operations of the hospitals. The healthcare system of Australia is regarded as one of the best in the world (Aihw.gov.au, 2016). Developmental implementations in healthcare are essential for the establishment of an effective and safe healthcare system and are necessary for improvement in the quality of the service delivery system. Effective implementation of strategies and plans are also crucial for creating a workplace culture that provides patient care of high quality. The Australian healthcare system has seen several processes, system and infrastructure improvement over the years that has shaped and improved the system to provide safe and quality healthcare for its people. One of the remarkable systems that have been implemented in recent times in the Australian healthcare system is the ‘National E-Health Strategy.' AHMAC (Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council) commissioned the IT giant Deloitte for developing a strategic framework that would serve to guide the national collaboration and coordination in matters of e-health for facilitating wider community inputs (Healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au, 2016). The strategy system adopted a staged and incremental approach for developing the existing e-health capacities of the country by launching the electronic health record system (eHealth) on 1st of July, 2012. This essay will discuss critically discuss this healthcare quality improvement initiative by the Australian government and provide an evidenced based overview by evaluating its effectiveness.
Evidenced Based Overview
National E-Health Strategy aims at establishing digital health by connecting electronically the points of care for secured sharing of the health information. This will aid in delivering better and safer healthcare. The health outcomes of the citizens of Australia reflects the initiatives of the government taken to maintain and improve the quality of healthcare by bringing fundamental changes in the approaches of healthcare delivery in the country (Health.gov.au, 2016). However, in spite of such world class standards, the system has its gaps in the form of shortage of skilled workers of healthcare, demand pressures and increasing costs. To fulfill this gap, a system has to be established where every interaction between the care providers and the consumers achieves the maximum significance and impact on the outcomes of health with effective deploying of the scarce human and financial resources. To make this happen, there has to be a fundamental shift in the process of sharing and access of information throughout the healthcare system to facilitate secure and reliable access to the healthcare information in a real time environment across the boundaries of healthcare and demography (Knight et al., 2014). To make this happen, the government has implemented a world class capability of e-health in the form of National E-Health Strategy where information technology has been combined with the electronic communication in the health sector. It ensures that the right information of health is provided at the right time and place to the right person in a secured form for optimizing the efficiency and quality of healthcare delivery and improves the health outcomes of the Australians. The landscape of the Australian health information has been characterized by the huge number of paper-based discrete information islands that creates significant barriers in the process of effective information sharing among the participants of healthcare. It also becomes difficult to understand the present scenario of the Australian system of healthcare for supporting the surveillance of the population health along with guiding the policies, innovation and service planning in the operational and clinician decision making across geographic distances and service boundaries (Haddad, Muhammad and Wickramasinghe, 2016). Therefore, for meeting the community and personal needs to effectively share and access health information, the e-health activity has been designed in the entire healthcare sector of Australia. The territories and states along with the Commonwealth took up this quality improvement initiative to build a national platform for e-health in both the private and government sectors. Till date, a large number of disparate initiatives of e-health have been delivered within the primary and acute care settings, local geographic regions and the other disciplines health sector in Australia.
Governance or Leadership for National E-Health Strategy
The work stream of the governance focuses on the establishment of the framework for the oversight and effective management of the strategy and its associated programs of work. The current arrangements of e-health governance are supportive of the improved coordination between the territory and state governments and the Commonwealth in the oversight of their individual responsibilities of health information management (Christensen & Hickie, 2010). However, the current arrangements are not adequate for providing effective governance agenda of e-health on a national level. Several factors are responsible for this gap that includes lack of the capacity for delivering national e-health strategy, lack of organizational capabilities, over dependence on the association between the disparate committees, working groups and the sub-committees and the inadequate representation in the process of decision making of the key health stakeholders. Effective coordination and leadership of the range of activities need to take place across every work stream of the national e-health work (Nicholson, Jackson & Marley, 2014). The Australian government has devised strategic planning for ensuring effective oversight, coordination and leadership for the work program of national e-health. The work stream has been made to focus on establishing appropriate mechanisms and governance structures for national e-health. National commitment and leadership for investment in the national infrastructure are essential for achieving the ultimate benefit from the national e-health strategy.
Application of Professional Communication and Interpersonal Skills
National e-health strategy is focused on shifting the basic professional communication to multi-disciplinary care delivery, joint care planning and collaboration through extended sharing of information to the physicians and care givers. E-health effectively supports the interaction of the consumers with their care providers by providing electronic communication procedure to perform the processing of prescriptions, referrals and test orders and results (Craswell, Moxham & Broadbent, 2014). This is very much effective while working in partnership with patients, families and care providers for promoting the achievement of quality and patient safety by communicating with e-health procedures by providing the right information to the right patient at the right time. The preventable errors and adverse events have been successfully avoided along with the costly system insufficiencies by improving the professional communication with the implementation of e-health. The government of Australia has focused on building the interpersonal skills to increase the e-health capability and capacity by providing tertiary and vocational training programs by national co-ordination (Eigner et al., 2016). Emphasis has been laid to increase the understanding and strengthening the importance of using e-health by the care providers for promoting the patient safety and quality of care. More the number of specifically trained practitioners in Australia more will be the leverage of the healthcare standards with effective delivery of the e-health benefits.
Legal and Regulatory Requirements
For leveraging the e-health activities on a national and local scale, the government of Australia has adopted a legal structure for establishing a governance regime for e-health on a long term. NEHTA (National Electronic Health Transition Authority) is a collaborative enterprise that has been established by the territory and the state governments with the Commonwealth to develop and identify the necessary foundations for e-health (Digitalhealth.gov.au, 2016). Privacy has been a major legal obligation for e-health for which NEHTA has developed a framework for privacy management for ensuring the integration of privacy considerations into the policies, management and design of the initiatives of e-health (Magrabi et al., 2013). Observing the legal requirements and protecting the patient privacy is associated with the safety and quality improvement that is effectively implemented and monitored by NEHTA by proper handling of the protected patient information and data. A legal framework is essential for supporting the e-health development and NEHTA has taken every possible measure for data protection and comply with the legal requirements for safety and quality improvement in Australian healthcare. The Privacy Act 1988 of Australia states that extra protection should be provided for handling the health information as it contains sensitive personal information (Oaic.gov.au, 2016). For abiding this, ‘National e-Health Security and Access Framework’ has been created by NEHTA that acts as a control mechanism for increasing the certainty that the access and creation of health information are done in a trustworthy and secure manner for meeting the community expectations and legal obligations. To support and protect these legal requirements, a regulatory regime has been developed by NEHIPC (National E-Health and Information Principal Committee) for providing transparent, streamlined and effective privacy arrangements for creating an effective e-health environment (Coaghealthcouncil.gov.au, 2016). In collaboration with NEHTA, NEHIPC has developed a national regulatory framework for the protection of the health information privacy. The regulatory requirements have been effectively met for providing a basis for the data protection legislation by determining the most appropriate means for the implementation of the framework on a national scale. The implementation and monitoring of the framework are crucial for the safety and quality improvement and the government has taken initiatives for the implementation of the national foundation of e-health. To meet the regulatory requirements, the government has ensured appropriate national training and education programs in place for supporting the building of the health IT skills capability and capacity for improving the patient safety and quality of care. The legislative framework enforces and monitors adherence to the functions of the national e-health entity of Australia.
Major Terms Associated with National E-Health Strategy
The term system used in the essay largely denotes the Australian healthcare system which is Australia’s most complex and largest industry sector. Approximately 9% of the GDP is comprised of the Australian healthcare and the total expenditure by the local, territory and state governments represents 67.8% of the total expenditure on health (Scott & Mars, 2013). The system of national e-health will improve the safety and quality of the Australian health system by empowering the consumers and care providers with better access to healthcare facilities. Process is the keyword for e-health in Australia as it enables a sustainable, more equitable, higher quality and safer health system for all the Australians by transforming the process of managing and planning information for delivering the services of healthcare. The e-health process will help to build world class capabilities in the country for the alignment and coordination of national e-health. This process will underpin a strong community prosperity and economic growth that will ensure the Australians that their health system is operating effectively and efficiently for delivering safe and high quality care aligning with the individual and community priorities (Jones et al., 2014). Infrastructure is another aspect that has been imperial in the implementation of the e-health system which requires national commitment and leadership for investment in the national infrastructure for making it happen. Both public and private investments are in place for making e-health effective and for improving the safety and quality of healthcare. The national infrastructure has been well designed prior to the investments in the process for meeting the needs of the healthcare system by allowing the information to seamlessly share and access throughout the Australian system of healthcare. Improvement is of paramount importance for any implementation in healthcare and e-health facilitates continuous improvement through effective sharing and reporting of the information of health outcome. Achieving the targets of e-health adoption across the vendors, healthcare managers, care providers and consumers will result in substantial improvement in the process of delivering more efficient, effective and safer healthcare using the health information (Newman & Frank, 2013). The economic prosperity of the country will also improve with a healthier, stronger and productive workforce that can be well supported with e-health strategy. Effectiveness is the ultimate objective for the implementation of the e-health strategy that aims to deliver effective healthcare in the remote and rural parts of Australia, along with the urban areas. For making the strategy effective, NRHA (National Rural Health Alliance) has arranged for the reporting and monitoring of the health outcomes and healthcare delivery for making it a national program development and health policy (Ruralhealth.org.au, 2016).
Criteria for Evaluating Effectiveness of National E-Health Strategy
The criteria used for evaluating the effectiveness of national e-health strategy in relation to the quality and safety outcomes by monitoring and evaluating the service delivery outcomes. The strategy represents tangible means of interacting electronically with the healthcare managers, care providers and consumers with the health system. E-health aims to reduce the unnecessary healthcare provider visits and improves the timeliness of care and this is evident from the hospitals and other settings where the patients need not remember their test results, no paper documents and relay their medical history (Handley et al., 2014). This will supply the providers with a complete and integrated view of the information of consumer health at the point of care that will ultimately improve the safety and quality of healthcare. Since another criterion of e-health is that it electronically connects the multi-disciplinary provider teams, the care delivery will be enabled by connecting them and providing effective coordination that will leverage the safety and quality of healthcare. It is an important criterion of e-health that the providers can have access to the patient data which allows them for effective evaluation and monitoring of the outcomes of service delivery that reflects the effectiveness of the system whether the treatment provided matches the desirable standards (Aliprandi-Costa et al., 2013). With e-health, the providers can share the electronic information in a secure and timely manner throughout the country across various geographic locations and seamlessly at all the branches of the health sector for raising the standards of care delivery. Since the healthcare managers can have access to complete and timely information about the outcomes and activities of the health system, it can help them to identify the loopholes and effectively improve the areas of flaws. Another criterion for evaluating the effectiveness of national e-health strategy in relation to quality and safety outcomes is that the consumers are provided with the access to a deeper and broader range of healthcare services from accredited and reliable sources of health information from the remote and rural communities (Xu et al., 2013). This will enable them to avail safe and quality healthcare services from a wide range of preferences by managing the confidentiality and security of information. Moreover, the healthcare managers will be allowed to assess rapidly the national impact for the treatment regimes for selected cases from the clinical datasets that will help them to evaluate the standards of care and performance of the system.
On a concluding note, it can be stated that the implementation of the e-health strategy leads to the development of a more sustainable and safer health system that is equipped suitably for responding to the demanding pressures and emerging costs of the health sector, with improvement in the safety and quality of the provided healthcare. Improvement in the healthcare system of Australia also drives stronger productivity of the workforce that is integral for boosting the economic prosperity on a long run. The strategy of e-health is pragmatic that balances the various priorities leading Australia for delivering a more sustainable, better connected and safer healthcare system. Not only the providers but the patients are potentially benefited as they can have access to a wider range of information about their care plans, treatments, current diagnoses and state of health that can effectively contribute towards achieving the maximum capacity of safety and quality in healthcare in Australia.
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