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Digital health in Tasmania – improving patient access and outcomes
  1. Usman Iqbal1,2,3,
  2. Warren Prentice1 and
  3. Anthony Lawler1,4
  1. 1Department of Health, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  2. 2School of Population Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  3. 3Department of Global Health and Health Security, College of Public Health, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan
  4. 4School of Medicine, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Adj. Associate Professor Usman Iqbal; usman.iqbal{at}

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With digital health’s potential to transform healthcare delivery, Australia is investing significantly to improve healthcare quality and efficiency.1 Investment is guided by national and global strategies, developed by the Australian Digital Health Agency1 and the WHO,2 respectively. The WHO strategy aims to promote the use of digital technologies to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities, supporting countries in developing their own digital health strategies. The Australian Government is driving several national initiatives, leveraging technology and data to improve patient outcomes and quality of care.3 While Australian states and territories are at varying stages of their digital health journeys, each has invested in a strategy or framework to guide their digital technology adoption.

Tasmania’s digital health strategy harmonises with broader national and international efforts, harnessing the power of technology to improve healthcare. Australia’s smallest state, Tasmania has a population of approximately 528 000, with the proportion of people aged 65+ projected to increase from 15% to 24% by 2058.4 This demographic shift has important healthcare implications, particularly in aged care service demand. In 2022, Tasmania released its digital health strategy,5 outlining priorities and an investment of US$476 million over the next 10 years for digital health advancements delivered through a state-wide integrated care platform. The strategy fosters multisector, interprofessional collaboration spanning regions, settings and disciplines to provide a longitudinal patient centred view. This includes real-time, secure communication and information exchange between primary, community, acute, subacute and aged care settings.

The strategy centres on state-wide fully integrated electronic medical records (EMRs) within the Tasmanian health system, facilitating real-time provider access to comprehensive patient information. EMRs can significantly improve the care, accuracy and efficiency, reduce risk of errors and adverse medication events, and drive improved clinical outcomes.6 In addition to EMRs and interoperable digital health infrastructure, delivery will include an integrated prehospital electronic patient care record and the expansion of telehealth services. Telehealth and Virtual Care services particularly benefit patients in rural or remote areas, where in-person care is difficult to access. Telehealth services prevent unnecessary hospital visits, reducing cost and the burden on emergency departments. Additionally, the use of wearable technology and mobile health apps empowers patients to manage their own health, make informed decisions about their care and communicate with their healthcare providers from the comfort of their own homes.7

With an emerging data-driven healthcare landscape, leveraging big data and artificial intelligence (AI) through robust, validated and unbiased models enables more personalised, predictive and preventive care models.8 AI can revolutionise healthcare by improving diagnosis and treatment speed, accuracy and cost-effectiveness. With abundant EMRs data, AI algorithms can learn to identify patterns and make predictions beyond human ability, such as analysing medical images to identify signs of disease earlier.9 Additionally, routine task automation will reduce administrative burdens on healthcare professionals, such as scheduling appointments and managing electronic health records.10 11

While adopting digital solutions is essential to improve care, digital health transformation is not a panacea. Evolving challenges such as a lack of digital health literacy, steep clinician and consumer learning curves and the digital divide may limit realisable benefits. The incorporation of AI is likely to engender data privacy, security and possibly ethical concerns.12 Tasmania’s Health Data Strategy addresses governance challenges by implementing strict protocols and processes to protect patient interests, ensure data confidentiality, promote evidence-based care and facilitate informed clinician–patient decision-making.13 Moreover, the strategy incorporates lessons learnt, advice and guidance from other jurisdictions, informing the initial investment. The involvement of all stakeholders, including consumers, families, carers, the clinical and non-clinical workforce, community sector organisations, primary health, private providers and the Tasmanian and Australian governments, is instrumental in shaping this strategy. Supporting this, digital health investment will bolster and propel Tasmania’s One Health Culture Program14 by harnessing technology to enhance collaboration, problem-solving, risk-sharing, empowerment and mutual respect among participants. This will enable the programme to more effectively leverage diverse backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and skills, advancing the One Health aspiration. Further, digital health initiatives can drive organisational change through streamlined processes, improved data management and innovation in healthcare delivery.

The future impact of digital health initiatives on healthcare in Tasmania, and Australia more generally, will be significant. With digital health transformation, Tasmanian health will deliver more efficient and effective healthcare services, well positioned for ongoing innovation. Patient-centred digitalisation of healthcare services has the potential to bridge divides, shorten distances and improve outcomes. By investing in and implementing such initiatives, the country and the state can ensure that all Australians have access to high-quality, efficient and effective healthcare.

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  • Contributors Initial conception design and drafting of the manuscript: UI, WP and AL. Drafting the manuscript: UI, WP and AL. Critical revision of the paper: UI, WP and AL.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not–for–profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.