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A new Flinders University and CISCO project looking to improve digital health technology design is set to improve usability for nurses, midwives and other medical professionals.

 The $1.5 million Digital Health Design Lab, project is part of the Flinders Digital Research Centre, which will cover areas stretching from cyber security through to the patient and clinician experience.

Flinders University’s Professor of Digital Health Systems Trish Williams, who is also CISCO chair, believed that improving information accessibility would be key for professionals inside and outside a hospital environment.

“…Availability of the correct information and the ability to access that information easily is a key thing in trying to deliver care, particularly nursing-type care and home-type care,” Professor Williams explained.

“What we don’t do well at the moment in hospitals is that… teaming and sharing of information that can be done a lot better with the capabilities that their [on-site] digital infrastructure already has.”

An additional issue is that remote carers have specific challenges with regards to triage, Professor Williams said.

“We’ve got lots of remote monitoring types of technologies already. What we don’t do very well is triage that information, and who’s responsible for it? We could do a lot better with some of those home monitoring type of technologies, but we have struggled because of our funding model.

“Clearly it depends on whose care they’re under, as to whether it might go back to the primary care physician or whether it would go back to the hospital or the specialist, but there’s so much information that people really don’t know what to do with and therefore they don’t do anything with it.”
While some of the issues Professor Williams identified will require long-term study, she was mindful that healthcare providers require solutions with immediacy.

“Because we work closely with industry, we are also highly aware of the fact that we need to have outcomes that make a difference in the short term rather than the longer term,” the Professor said.

“We have quite short timelines in terms of what sort of things that we’re actually looking at.”

With Flinders University also taking on digitally focused projects involving Western Australia’s Fiona Stanley Hospital and the Melbourne-based RMIT University’s Health Transformation Lab, Professor Williams made it clear that working directly with health professionals was going to be the key part of the lab’s engagement.

“The thing that really excites me most is working with everybody on the ground – whether it’s the administration, the nursing staff, the surgeons, whoever – to try and help what they do… because a lot of what we introduce can be quite far reaching,” she said.

“It’s funny because it’s not like a whole grand sort of desire to want to change the world, it’s really much more about being able to change people’s experience on a day-to-day basis.”