Drive to healthcare identifiers begins with roadmap’s release

4 minute read

As of today, the ADHA, DoHAC and Services Australia have taken the first steps along the yellow brick road to a key linchpin of interoperability.

The Australian Digital Health Agency has released its National Healthcare Identifiers Roadmap – a five-year plan to support the wider uptake of healthcare identifiers.

Developed in conjunction with the Department of Health and Aged Care and Services Australia, the HI Roadmap provides a framework for bringing in HIs — unique numbers used to identify individuals and are used by healthcare providers and healthcare organisations to connect the right information with the right person at the point of care – and a crucial part of progressing interoperability across the sector.

“Healthcare identifiers are the linchpin for safe, secure and seamless information sharing across the nation’s healthcare system in near real time,” said the ADHA’s chief digital officer Peter O’Halloran.

“They are central to the evolution of digital health and will empower Australian healthcare consumers to have continuous care across all healthcare facilities in every corner of Australia.”

The HI Roadmap spotlights 20 activities designed to improve the HI Service in the following areas:

  • Legislation and policy including reforms to the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010.
  • Healthcare Identifiers Service improvements in data matching and data quality.
  • Architecture and data standards.
  • Operational improvements to governance, directory services development, education and stakeholder communication and engagement.

The three agencies will report quarterly on progress of the roadmap, with the first report due in October, covering the period 1 July to 30 September 2024.

DoHAC’s assistant secretary of the digital health branch, Simon Cleverley, said the HI Roadmap was the result of working closely with the states and territories and key delivery partners to develop the foundations of a more connected health system and better health outcomes for Australia.

“Increased adoption of the national healthcare identifiers will mean Australians will avoid having to retell their story as they move across the health system,” said Mr Cleverley.

“Access to information in real time will also support healthcare providers to make well informed clinical decisions and care plans.

“The HI Roadmap follows the release of the Australian Government’s Digital Health Blueprint and Action Plan 2023 – 2033 and other key digital health strategies and plans and furthers the commitment to leverage national infrastructure.”

General manager of the health programs division at Services Australia, Stuart Turnbull, acknowledged the importance of the HI Roadmap as a stepping stone for future innovation that would impact health, disability and aged care services.

“Services Australia has a long history of developing systems in support of Australia’s healthcare delivery,” he said.

“As the HI Service operator, we look forward to working with our colleagues and the broader healthcare industry in this initiative, which will promote a modernised, better connected healthcare system.”

Some of the work has already begun, including a legislative reform program for the HI Act to simplify interpretation to enable confident and appropriate use of the HI Service and authorising the National Health Services Directory to store and use HPI-Os and HPI-Is as a point of validation for integration partners.

Also already underway to develop a clear policy direction to rectify the fact that there is currently no formal cross-agency policy position across DoHAC, the ADHA and Services Australia. Also under review is the range of Australian government identifiers used for different purposes across the health system and identifying opportunities to rationalise and simplify these.

From now, the ADHA and Services Australia will provide data matching and data quality improvements by performing analysis and engagement with stakeholders to develop and implement a delivery plan of identified improvements.

“This is building upon known existing concerns about data matching and data quality, such as reducing retired IHI record search results, failed messages searches and the need to review effectiveness of healthcare identifier status flags,” says the HI Roadmap.

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The agencies will also review existing error and information messages and their usage and will confirm their actual response criteria. It will normalise messages and rationalise them, as necessary.

All three entities will begin work on conducting analysis and engagement with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations and key stakeholders to work on developing and implementing a plan of identified data matching improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“It will include investigation into possible design model(s) of interaction with the HI Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that will ensure accurate and consistent identification, with trust and community at the centre,” says the statement.

Starting in July 2025 the DoHAC will develop a simplified guide to the HI Act and produce template policies and guidelines on HI use, in conjunction with the ADHA.

In FY 2026-27 the ADHA will tackle the increasing number of consumer health apps and mHealth devices which currently fall outside the scope of conformance processes and use a variety of identifiers.

For full details of the HI Roadmap’s 20 activities, click here.

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