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Digital Hospitals and Connected Care

A digital hospital leverages comprehensive, pervasive information management and information communications technology (IM&ICT) to support clinical and administrative workflows, and safety and quality improvement.

Digital health projects across the globe have, and continue to, face challenges.  

In July 2017, Standards Australia published a world first digital hospitals handbook, an initiative led by the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC) and the National Health CIO Forum (NHCIOF). The objective of the Digital Hospitals Handbook (SA HB 163:2017) was to develop a set of principles and recommendations to inform the design and implementation of Digital Hospitals, both new and refurbished, in Australia.

Intended to enable innovative ways for providing healthcare services and support positive outcomes for stakeholders, the handbook is a guide for government and industry to use now and into the future. It is a people and outcomes focused document intended for use across a broad audience.

In developing the handbook, Australian experts have consolidated references to guide health systems as they move to digital. The primary opportunity is to design hospitals for technological change from the very beginning.

The handbook aims to improve the outcomes delivered within health projects by ensuring:

  • Clear articulation of the underlying principles for a “digital hospital”
  • Alignment with the design, construction and commissioning of healthcare facilities through a benefits estimation/realisation framework
  • An ICT systems architecture enabling innovative healthcare services now and into the future through interoperability

Interoperability is essential not only to enable one medical facility to share information with another medical facility using the same “language” in real time, but to allow for greater Australian-wide, cross border ‘connected care’. This is essential if the benefits of digital hospitals are to be realised and deliver on the important goal of Healthier Australians.

By taking this approach it has been recognised that technology will continue to evolve, so interoperability of medical infrastructure needs to be one of the underpinning principles when health projects are being planned.

Chair of the technical committee IT-039, Digital Hospitals, Dr Andrew P Howard, explained the background and impact of the handbook.

“Australian hospitals have been improving their digital maturity for decades. However, early adopters show some projects have cost more, taken longer and been less effective than was otherwise possible.

SA HB 163 presents pragmatic solutions for stakeholders of all backgrounds. By focusing on people and outcomes our hope is it will be widely leveraged by private and public health systems as they plan their digital transitions,” said Dr Howard.