Future of Public Health Informatics
Healthdirect Australia is a national, government-owned, non-profit organization which was established in 2006 by the Council of Australian Governments (Healthdirect Australia Ltd., 2017). It provides all Australians with free access to health information and advice, ensuring 24 hours a day and 7 days a week access and directing them to appropriate services where and when they need them, so that they are able to manage their own health and wellbeing (Healthdirect Australia, 2018).
Healthdirect Australia manages the below mentioned health related services on behalf of the Australian Governments (Australian National Data Service, n.d.):
• Healthdirect: a helpline, website and mobile app for 24/7 access to health information and advice
• After hours GP helpline: free medical advice at night, on weekends and public holidays
• The National Health Services Directory: provide access to comprehensive, reliable and accurate information about Australian health related services
• Pregnancy, Birth and Baby: a helpline and website supporting expecting parents and families with children aged upto five years
• My Aged Care: a contact centre: a contact centre and website connecting people with aged care services and information
• Carer Gateway: a contact centre and website providing carers with information about the support and services available to them
• Mindhealthconnect: an online portal providing access to range of mental health and wellbeing resources
The organization uses innovative technologies and delivers services across the traditional contact centres channels like phone, fax, SMS, email and webforms. It heavily uses websites for information delivery and self-service tools like ‘Symptom Checker’, which guides user through a set of questions to analyze the symptoms and receive advice on necessary actions (Matchboard, n.d.)
In Australia, millions of people search for health information online every day and this leads them to unverified sources from other countries as well where there is no guarantee of information being safe and relevant to Australian health system. Healthdirect Australia has partnered with a group of more than 180 leading health organizations which provide trusted content that can be accessed through various online services (Healthdirect Australia Ltd., 2017).
Healthdirect Australia employs a number of government protocols to ensure that the services are delivered to the highest quality. It has a clinical governance framework which guarantees the health products and services meet the national clinical safety and quality standards. The framework includes six dimensions across the performance areas of system, workforce, risk management and quality improvement. The dimensions as applied ensure (Matchboard, n.d.):
• Safety: to minimize harm
• Effectiveness: in achieving desired outcomes
• Appropriateness: by doing the right things
• Consumer Acceptability: to the satisfaction of the customers
• Access and Equity: in delivery across communities
• Efficiency: that provides the highest benefit for the best relative cost
Furthermore, healthdirect Australia ensures the health information and advice is of high quality as it is staffed by registered nurses and General Practitioners (Healthdirect Australia Ltd., 2017). Therefore, the users could trust that the information provided is trustworthy and of high quality. However, one has to be careful that it should be substituted for a visit to a hospital or health care professionals as cases might differ from one individual to another and there might not be proper diagnosis without physical examination.
Looking ahead, there are lots of opportunities for Healthdirect Australia as it is collaborating with various governmental, academic and research organizations on new projects. One such example is Digital Mental Health Gateway where it is working with the Australian government and experts in the health sector to lead the co-design of the gateway (Healthdirect Australia Ltd., 2016).
Personally, I believe Healthdirect Australia should continue to invest on finding innovative ways to support those without the access of its services and also monitor whether their services are meeting the users’ needs. Having said that, it should also look for the ways to reduce the future costs of providing quality care and services and make evidence-backed solutions to the current health problems.