The digitisation of Australian health care

Australia’s healthcare industry consistently ranks as one of the best in the world and is widely considered to be one of the most comprehensive; offering a vast range of services from general and preventative care, through to treating more complex conditions, that may need a specialist or hospital care. The rapid development of digital health is exponentially transforming the way operations and practices are conducted within the global healthcare industry. It is no different in Australia, digital health continues to be a critical enabler for effective health services.

What is digital health?

Digital health is an umbrella term referring to a vast range of technologies. These technologies include but are not limited to:

  • mobile health and applications (e.g. SMS reminders via mobile messaging)
  • electronic prescribing
  • electronic health records
  • electronic medication charts
  • telehealth and tele medicine
  • wearable devices (e.g. fitness trackers and monitors)
  • robotics and artificial intelligence (AI)

When used effectively and responsibly, digital health has an immense amount of potential to lead to the better overall health of Australian citizens, better health outcomes for healthcare users, and a better provision of services. Improvements in the quality and efficiency of information sharing can be achieved through embracing digital health.

One of the main contributing factors to the digitisation of healthcare is the facilitation of data interoperability. Defined by the Global Digital Health Partnership as “the ability of a system or product to transfer meaning of information within and between systems or products without special effort on the part of the user”, interoperability is a key strategic priority in Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy.

In addition to practicing patient-centred care, interoperability allows healthcare providers to ensure the continuity of care and reduce waiting times by streamlining and improving the timeliness of access to data and information, providing real-time decision support for improved clinical decision making and patient safety.

Healthcare providers

Having health information available whenever and wherever it is needed can effectively allow and support providers and services to implement a more patient-centred form of care. Hospitals and health services that implement patient-centred care report that digitisation has resulted in:

  • lower ER visit rates
  • faster patient recoveries
  • decreased utilisation of healthcare resources
  • increased patient, family, and care team satisfaction
  • improved health outcomes.

Healthcare employees

Digital health technologies pose numerous benefits to clinicians. An immense degree of value can be added to the services provided to patients if the data clinicians are able to access becomes more actionable and integrated with other relevant, and contextual information. The quality of service provided to patients by clinicians is crucial in determining the quality of the healthcare system as a whole.

Digital health technologies also make it possible for clinicians to conduct digitally enabled patient screening, making them more accessible to patients who can’t see them in person. The use of AI and robotics in healthcare is also becoming increasingly prevalent and poses many benefits to clinicians. There is large potential for health data and AI research to generate knowledge that would otherwise be impossible to obtain. For example, an AI-based test can save lives by identifying the origins of cancers which would then subsequently allow practitioners to tailor the treatment. AI also poses practical advantages such as the ability to sift through large amounts of data, perform real-time analyses and provide recommendations to health care providers and patients.

Healthcare users

Digital health technology has significant benefits for healthcare user and increased their:

  • Autonomy to actively participate in the management of their own health and healthcare.
  • Confidence in their care, knowing that key medical information is being shared between their providers, reducing the need for them to retain, understand and share often extensive, complex, and clinically relevant medical information.
  • Capacity to achieve their specific health goals, with studies indicating things such as automated text reminders substantially increase smoking quit rates and people are twice as likely to confidently say that they took their medication as prescribed if they used an app.

Digital health technologies also usher in the use of virtual care, which has proven particularly effective in addressing barriers often faced by rural and remote communities, such as infrastructure, distance and cost and provision of consultations, referrals, scripts and test results via digital technologies, as well as the enhanced use of the MyHealthRecord that will connect rural, regions and remote areas to GP services, ensuring that these people can access the best care possible.

Implementation of this digital health will also go towards Closing the Gap initiatives, as First Nations communities, who are often affected the worst by a lack of access to health services, digitisation means they are more reachable by healthcare services.


Some of the challenges associated with utilising and accessing digital health include:

  • Quality of internet access in the area, the security of the device being used, and the user’s knowledge and confidence to use and understand the information.
  • Inexperience with technology, socioeconomic factors, and disability, may hinder consumers’ ability to access and use digital health technologies.
  • In order to function properly, the implementation of interoperability must be both technical (the ability of two or more systems to communicate) or semantic (the ability for communication to be meaningful and accurate). Ensuring these two things is integral to facilitating the effective transfer of information between patients, practitioners, providers and services, and relies on maintaining robust and consistent underlying technical specifications and data standards.
  • Ability for data and information to be more easily shared and used emphasises the vital importance of data literacy and data citizenship. Data citizenship in the context of the user refers to the ability to engage with and use health data in a meaningful, informed, consented and empowered manner. In the context of the providers and clinicians, data citizenship refers to the understanding of and conforming to the ethics, governance and legal requirements for health data management.
  • Heightened community awareness around the concept of data collection has resulted in legislative requirements being made to ensure that individuals data is stored and shared safely. If these legislative requirements are not met, then the general sense of public trust towards the Australian healthcare system can be severely jeopardized.
  • Achieving widespread and active participation in digital health applications is entirely reliant on society’s ability to effectively overcome the many challenges that arise from its continuous development and implementation.

Moving towards digitisation

Change is ever-present as Australia’s health service providers move further towards digital health. Whether a policymaker, healthcare practitioner, or consumer, there is a growing familiarity and acceptance of the significant role of digital health and the realisation of the improved health benefits and convenience it offers.

The scope and scale of becoming more digitised will require commitment and investment regardless of the size or shape of the health service. For instance, the needs of a metropolitan hospital are far different to a rural health unit, emergency health service, or community health centre. Close examination of each service will be needed, including developing and implementing the right responses.

Ultimately healthcare practitioners and health workers will support digital initiatives, projects and programs that have potential to improve health outcomes, enhance the delivery of high-quality care and make delivery simpler. The key is to invite and bring healthcare users, staff and those who will be impacted by the change on the journey to ensure they are appropriately informed and equipped.

Leading change

An effective change management framework is integral to a smooth transition into utilisation of digital health technologies.

Change management is a broad concept that typically refers to the establishment and implementation of a structured approach used to guide individuals through a change from current state to desired state. For healthcare organisations, this will entail a collaborative process involving a range of people, from frontline workers, support service staff, managers, leaders, and healthcare consumers.

The change process will involve the allocation of resources to raise awareness, build upskilling programs, coach, engage and inform employees. Efficiency and effectiveness will be crucial and a key determinant of success. Successful change management practice is measurable, sustainable and enduring.

Adopting and implementing a proven change management process builds trust and confidence and a desire from those involved to work through any issues and positively influence and champion change.

Many change management methodologies are informed by what is known as the Prosci ADKAR Model, which is particularly useful in healthcare settings because it considers change at the individual and broader organisational level. Unlike other models of change which are typically descriptive, the Prosci Model is distinctly prescriptive, providing a clear outline of how to successfully achieve and sustain change on both of these levels.


Individual Level
Awareness – of the need for change
Desire – to participate and support change
Knowledge – on how to change
Ability – to implement desires skills and behaviours
Reinforcement – to sustain change
Organisational Level
Involves a focus on developing and communicating an understanding of the scope of the change and how to prepare individuals and teams for the change
Involves utilising the information gained in Phase 1 to plan and deliver focused activities that effectively support the successful implementation of change for all organisational members through moving them through the ADKAR transitions
Involves realising the value of the change by ensuring that it has been effectively adopted and ensuring that the organisation is resourced and committed to sustain the change


The importance of change communication is one of the most vital aspects in any change towards digital healthcare. In healthcare settings, strategic internal and external communication plays a crucial role in supporting leaders with change, managing risks and aligning individuals and groups who will be impacted. Providing staff with timely, regular and credible communication will help to build a culture of digitisation in any health service no matter its size and gain acceptance, buy-in and to fully embrace digital healthcare.

Although digital health poses a plethora of benefits, it must be approached with care. It is absolutely essential to weigh the benefits against the potential risks and ensure that digital health is used in a safe, secure, and responsible manner. To do so, implementing successful communication within an established change management framework is imperative. By successfully putting these concepts into action, the Australian healthcare system can unlock the full potential of this technology and improve the overall levels health and wellbeing throughout all factions of society.

Connect with us

If you require expert support in relation to digital health care, please contact Group Executive Director for Health and Care, Rebecca Williams