Digital health: an ally for health promotion and prevention

  • Woman in white gown looking at computer. Inset Prof Dorota Gertig

Professor Dorota Gertig (inset).

‘When it comes to population health, there are endless possibilities for improving quality, safety and digital innovation,’ explains Professor Dorota Gertig, Medical Director of Population Health Solutions and the National Cancer Screening Register at Telstra Health.

A leader in digital population health solutions, cancer screening and cancer research – which includes the epidemiology of cervical, breast and ovarian cancers – public health physician and senior epidemiologist Professor Gertig is committed to finding solutions to emerging healthcare challenges for improving health outcomes.

Having authored more than 140 scientific publications, Professor Gertig’s primary research focus has been on translational and policy-relevant research, including the impact of the HPV vaccine and improving participation in cancer screening.

In her role at Telstra Health, Professor Gertig understands the opportunities digital health solutions present for population health promotion and prevention.

‘Our core purpose at Telstra Health is to improve lives through connected health care and, from a population health standpoint, we are continuously trying to achieve this by integrating the clinical information surrounding a patient.

‘We cannot underestimate the importance of enabling clinicians to have a more complete view of their patients’ health information, and digital health technology has a very big part to play in making this a reality. Through digital technologies we can innovate to find improved quality and safety of care for the people and organisations who are on the frontline delivering care to patients.’

Telstra Health’s Population Health Solutions group currently supports the Australian Government’s National Cancer Screening Register.

‘Providing a secure and robust way to connect patients’ health information across multiple providers in near real time, across whole populations and sectors, is by no means straightforward. That’s why we can and should use technology as an ally for building a more patient-focused, connected health system.

’Innovative digital channels can be used by healthcare providers to access a more holistic view of a patient’s pathway through the healthcare system, as well as treating their patients and preventing ill health in good time.

‘On a whole-of-population level, digitally enabled integrated care and scalable population health management initiatives can help to tackle health inequalities in cohorts of the population such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.’

‘An excellent example of using digital health as an ally for health promotion and preventing illness and lives lost is the Australian Government’s National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) which enables a single electronic record for each person in Australia participating in cervical and bowel screening. We know that cancer screening saves lives, and the NCSR helps improve cancer screening outcomes for individuals by inviting and reminding eligible people to screen, and by providing screening histories to a patient’s healthcare providers to maximise participation.’

The NCSR is the first whole-of-population cancer screening platform in Australia that comprehensively links all relevant population screening stakeholders including federal and state health authorities, GPs, specialists, public and private pathology services, and the participant. It supports the cancer screening programs end to end and securely manages more than 16 million participant records in Australia.

‘In our commitment to achieving a connected and improved digital health experience for all, we are continuously innovating the existing population health solutions we manage and deliver. In recent months, the NCSR has undergone a number of upgrades to ensure it is efficient, user-friendly and accessible for healthcare professionals,’ Professor Gertig said.

The recently released new digital channels for healthcare providers allow healthcare providers to access and submit their patients’ cervical and bowel screening information in real time through a secure online portal. The NCSR has also recently integrated with clinical information systems MedicalDirector, Best Practice and Communicare to provide this functionality directly within a patient record.

You can find out more about Population Health Solutions delivered by Telstra Health at www.telstrahealth.com

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