Interoperability poor and My Health Record tech ‘ordinary’: Butler

2 minute read

Health lacks the digital basics that every other significant sector of the economy has, the minister has admitted.

Federal health minister Mark Butler yesterday said the Australian health system was “terrific” in many ways, but interoperability was not one of them.

Launching the Australian Comprehensive Cancer Network in Sydney Mr Butler acknowledged the quality of the country’s healthcare but admitted “not everyone gets access to that best”.

“Where it falls down is connection. It’s not a well-connected system,” he told the room full of cancer clinicians, administrators and survivors and those watching virtually from around the country.

“One of the things that really struck me as I came back into the healthcare portfolio was just how poorly a sector populated by the smartest people in the country – that spends many, many hundreds of billions of dollars over a period of time – how poorly it performs on digital health, particularly interoperability,” he said.

“We as the Commonwealth need to take first responsibility for that.

“My Health Record was cutting-edge technology when we introduced it in 2012. It’s pretty ordinary technology now.

“There’s more of an appetite for those connections now, but still they don’t exist and they’re leading to much poorer outcomes, a lot of inefficiencies, a lot of testing and other things that people shouldn’t have to go through time and time again just because we don’t have the basic digital interoperability that every other significant sector of the economy has.

“Those connections just aren’t as good as they should be, and digital health is just one example,” the minister said.

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The Australian Comprehensive Cancer Network aims to bring together cancer resources and data from around the country to ensure everyone shares in what Mr Butler described as “not just among the best [outcomes] in the world but the best in the world”.

The central ambition of the Australian Cancer Plan was to enable equity of access to the high standard of available care, regardless of postcode, background or tumour type, he said.

“We should be able to deliver that in a country as wealthy with a healthcare system as good as ours, with a medical workforce as talented and as well trained as ours. Every cancer patient should have access to that gold standard. And what that requires is better networking.”

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