Addressing CEDA’s event on digital health in Melbourne, Mr Kelsey said medicine is still a fundamentally human endeavour.
“Digital is nothing if it is not a resource to support the humanity of medicine and improve the person-centredness of care,” he said.
“It is critically important that nothing we do, any of us in this historic moment, jeopardises or comprises the sanctity of the very human relationship that exists between the patient and their clinician at the moment of most vulnerable need."
Mr Kelsey, speaking during National Reconciliation Week, said while Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, the health outcomes for remote Aboriginal Australians are shocking for many people, with incidences of disease completely unacceptable in a civilised twenty-first century society.
He cited the Lighthouse Project as an example of how Australians are already taking advantage of digital services to improve the humanity in the way in which different communities are being cared for.
“It’s an amazing illustration of what happens when communities get together and take advantage of really basic technologies to just get the job done,” he said.
The Royal Perth Hospital treats people coming in from very distant parts of Western Australia who, after being treated and discharged back into the community have a long way home. Along the way they may lose a discharge notice or have no recollection of which medicines have been prescribed and, as a result take either no medication or the wrong medication and end up back in the Royal Perth hospital as a readmission.
“These fantastic Aboriginal care workers decided enough was enough,” he said.
“They took the My Health Record and put it to use for that community to try to solve that problem.
“They worked together with carers, pharmacists and GPs along the routes home to make sure that they were all aware of how they could see the missing discharge summary in the My Health Record and through that means be able to reconcile medicines for a person and understand which ones they should have taken if they didn’t.”
Mr Kelsey described the My Health Record as an incredible reform, the importance of which shouldn’t be underestimated.
“Australia is now the only country in the world that has given every citizen that wants it access to a mobile health record in which that key, even lifesaving information is held,” he said.
He said the application of My Health Record to medication was important because, in Australia today more people die from medication misadventure than they do from road traffic accidents.
“The most recent evidence says that broadly speaking a quarter of a million people each year are unnecessarily admitted into hospital because of medication error,” he said.
“And quite astonishingly, nearly every person – 98 per cent – of residents in Australian aged-care facilities will experience an incidence of medication misadventure every year, from which a number die.”
He said that human imperative was behind the 2017 agreement by the governments of Australia that there needed to be a new national digital health strategy.
Mr Kelsey described the national digital health strategy as a seminal achievement for Australia because for the first time every jurisdiction in the country and all the peak bodies found consensus around the core priorities for action in relation to delivering safer and better health services for Australians.
“Consumers told us they want access to their own health information and they want the ability to control who else sees it,” he said. “They want to be empowered because they want to be better at being healthier.”
He said clinicians also want to be able to securely share clinical information and currently most of them can’t do this without resorting to paper and fax machines.
“Everybody wants trust, and nothing can be done to damage the sanctity of the confidentiality of the clinical consultation,” he said.
With those things being required, the governments agreed on the new digital health strategy. That strategy has seven priorities, the first of which is the My Health Record.
“I honestly believe this is a tipping point in history,” Mr Kelsey said.
“My Health Record is a truly historic reform that will empower people across Australia to take more control of their health and wellbeing,” he said.
He said around 90 per cent of Australians didn’t opt out of My Health Record and they now have one. Those records will be activated over coming months.
“From a standing start about 12–15 months ago we now have well over 85 per cent of community pharmacies in Australia registered for My Health Record and more than 60 per cent currently uploading every dispensed item of medicines information to My Health Record,” he said.
The second priority of the national digital health strategy is secure messaging and that will finally end the persistent use of fax machines and the danger to human life that can be posed by a misdirected fax.
Mr Kelsey said by the end of this year every clinician will be offered a service enabling them to securely communicate electronically with their colleagues.
He said Australia is currently putting in place the basic foundations of a very modern person-centred health service that is respecting and supporting the humanity of the clinical encounter.