Digital Health: Making headwinds by harnessing Interoperability

TAKEAWAYS by Merrilyn Clancy, PhD, GAICD, MTAA Senior Policy Officer

1. What is interoperability?

Medical device interoperability can accelerate the shift to safer, efficient & cost-effective ways of delivering healthcare securely, in a patient-centred world. Information can be exchanged between doctors, patients and professionals – displayed, stored, analysed, interpreted and automatically respond or control another product for better outcomes.


2. The technology is here, but progress is too slow.  What’s holding us back?

Lack of common standards for connectivity & interoperability.  Systems & technologies vary, so databanks cannot connect with each other or be accessed by those who need it.  A patient may have an app, with an advanced device, but it may not connect/communicate with hospital IT systems.  A hospital may have policies and procedures that do not align with primary care providers (GPs, Community Health, Skilled Nursing Facilities).


3. What’s the solution?

The primary responsibility falling to government systems to develop and authorise, but all stakeholders have a role to play – in leadership, advocacy and action.

The answer is to seek adoption of international standards and specifications, to integrate into practice to ways in which information can be exchanged securely and flexibly.  This will go a long way to ending data cemeteries.  Competing standards, misaligned incentives may serve to protect SMEs or generate jobs, but it fragments the possibility of integrated care.  A mandated minimum standard set is a good starting point.  Europe has proposed health information exchange recommendations for sharing across borders. Asia Pacific is seeking the same, even though there is diversity in systems such as India vs Indonesia.


4. How do we create a headwind in Australia?

  • Create an open and interoperable digital health ecosystem, with mandated minimum standards
  • Create a call to action for stakeholders for accelerated pathways for low-risk devices and technologies.  
  • Advocate with regulators in frameworks they understand
  • Advocate with healthcare providers – doctors, other professionals and patients
  • Advocate with purchasing authorities by showing them what works
  • Seek the headwinds by engaging people – stakeholders and community alike - by championing successes e.g., pre-and post-op data sharing that saved a live, generated faster recovery, prevented surgery, merging lifestyle data (nutrition, exercise, well-being) with primary care
  • Advocate in language that is understood by the stakeholder, not the industry
  • Highlight safety, security, efficiency


5. Where can I learn more?

MedTech Europe

APACMed Asia Pacific