Nurses and midwives are increasingly using digital health technologies to help deliver patient care and improve outcomes across Australia’s healthcare system.
Recognising the rapidly evolving landscape, the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), along with the Australian Institute of Digital Health, developed the National Nursing and Midwifery Digital Health Capability Framework, released in October 2020, to help the workforce define the digital health knowledge, skills and attitudes required for contemporary professional practice.
Essentially, the Framework provides a platform for tailored learning by giving nurses and midwives a guide to self-assess their digital capability level across a range of domains and identify areas where they can enhance their skills. These include:
- Domain 1 – Digital Professionalism;
- Domain 2 – Leadership and Advocacy;
- Domain 3 – Data and Information Quality;
- Domain 4 – Information-Enabled Care; and
- Domain 5 – Technology
According to Nicola Graham, the ADHA’s Manager, Education, the Framework provides an important tool to help nurses and midwives more confidently use digital health technologies to deliver health and care.
“It is a really valuable tool that helps nurses and midwives practically assess where their digital health capabilities are at and potential areas for improvement,” Mrs Graham says.
“While it focuses on extending digital health development, it also helps to highlight areas nurses and midwives are already doing well in, which is equally important.”
Undoubtedly, My Health Record is one key area in which the better use of innovative technology has helped improve the healthcare system for clinicians, providers and consumers. Since 2012, the system has provided a safe and secure place to access vital health information such as immunisations, pathology and diagnostic imaging reports, prescription and dispensing information, hospital discharge summaries and more.
For nurses and midwives, it has significantly cut down time typically spent chasing up a patient’s health information, enabling greater focus on health needs to support clinical decision-making and improve the safety of care.
“My Health Record enables health information to be shared easily between healthcare providers in different care settings,” Mrs Graham explains.
“It is a secure, online system where clinicians involved in a patient’s care can access key health information that has been uploaded by a range of healthcare providers. For nurses and midwives, this allows them to spend time on what matters most – delivering safe, high-quality care.”
Earlier this year, My Health Record elevated to another level with the launch of the ‘my health’ app, which now allows Australians to access key health information that they, their healthcare providers or representatives have uploaded to My Health Record, fast and securely on their mobile phones.
The new technology adds to efforts to create a more connected healthcare system, Mrs Graham says, underpinned by patients and consumers having a more complete picture of their health and taking ownership over their wellbeing. It could prove most beneficial in settings such as aged care and community, where nurses and midwives likely do not have ready access to information systems.
“The ‘my health’ app is fantastic in that nurses, who for example might be doing a home visit and wound care management, and don’t have access to a clinical information system to be able to view My Health Record, can potentially view the information via the patient’s ‘my health’ app on their phone,” Mrs Graham explains.
“The patient can choose to show and share the information with the nurse, whether it’s a discharge or event summary, giving the nurse access to health information at the time the care is needed. It’s great for the patient as well because they know they can access and choose to share their health information no matter where they are, or who they’re seeing.”
Colleague Suzanne Manning, has already found the app useful, recently using it to seamlessly share blood tests with an allied health provider and bypassing the hassle and cost of having to revisit the GP to get another pathology request when the test was already available on her My Health Record.
“I emailed it to her [the dietitian], a pop-up comes up that says be careful who you’re sharing this information with, which is really helpful. Then I just emailed her the reports. I saved a whole week and $80 to go to a GP to get another blood test,” Ms Manning says.
“What actually happened in this scenario was Suzanne was able to get the help she needed at the time of the consultation, she didn’t have to wait another week or two to get the care she needed,” Mrs Graham adds.
Importantly, the ‘my health’ app includes strong cyber security protections, including Bio metrics, such as a finger print and adding a pin number, with consumers receiving warnings before they choose to share their health information.
In April, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), who assisted the development of the Framework and chaired the Advisory Committee leading the project, held a webinar, part of a joint series run together with the ADHA, discussing the important role nurses and midwives play in enhancing cyber security in the workplace.
“Digital technology is wonderful but it also comes with increased risk of cyber-attacks,” Mrs Graham warns.
“These days, we hear so much more about people’s health information being stolen or compromised. It’s important to embrace technology but alongside that comes the need to think more about cyber-security. It’s really important for organisations to be aware of that and that’s an area the Agency is really focused on providing education about with the support of the ANMF.”
As digital health continues to become a permanent fixture of Australia’s healthcare system, Mrs Graham says nurses and midwives are well-positioned to lead the change.
“Digital health in Australia is developing so much and so, too, is the need for digital health related skills and capabilities. This is, now, an essential component of clinical practice, so it’s important for us to educate and provide information and support to clinicians so that they can confidently use digital health technologies to deliver safe, high-quality healthcare.”
The Framework is freely available to all nurses and midwives on the ADHA website – National Nursing and Midwifery Digital Health Capability Framework
Further information and support:
Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation – https://www.anmf.org.au/professional/digital-health
Australian Digital Health Agency – www.digitalhealth.gov.au