Digital Health

Unlocking the full potential of digital health in primary healthcare

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Digital technologies are now embedded into almost all aspects of modern life and Primary Health Care (PHC) is no exception.

As digital technologies become increasingly ubiquitous, Primary Health Care (PHC) providers are embracing digital technologies as an essential resource. However, assessing the extent of their adoption and integration is crucial to unlocking the full potential of digital health.

In a new report from the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research, the Perspectives Brief ‘Digital maturity models for primary health care’ explores the role of digital maturity assessments in assisting PHC providers to fully leverage available digital assets and technologies for the benefit of both the patient base and workforce.

“As we move towards more integrated healthcare systems, digital technologies are an essential resource for primary health care,”  AHHA Chief Executive Kylie Woolcock said.

“While the potential benefits of digital technology and information systems among healthcare providers are undeniable, it’s important to acknowledge that there is still considerable variability in their adoption and integration across services. This raises concerns for a potential ‘digital divide’.”

“‘Assessing providers’ digital infrastructure maturity is imperative for PHC stakeholders and funders, and comprehensive tools are needed to evaluate the steps being taken towards achieving digital health maturity.”

“There is a limited number of digital maturity models available for the healthcare setting, and even fewer specifically designed for PHC.”

The report outlines the benefits of using two previously existing models as well as a newly developed model, the Digital Maturity Assessment of Primary Healthcare Providers (DMAPP).

Developed by researchers from Deakin University, in consultation with Western Victoria PHN, the DMAPP model assesses pertinent aspects of digital health infrastructure and intervention within the PHC environment. The model encompasses the three core pillars of primary health care and key components from established digital maturity models.

This comprehensive framework not only facilitates the assessment of digital maturity among healthcare providers but also supports their progress towards achieving it.

While digital maturity assessments are critical for PHC stakeholders and funders, there are also risks to consider, such as variable digital literacy among healthcare workers and patients. Limited or no digital literacy can lead to isolation and marginalisation of intended users, potentially hindering the adoption of digital health and contributing to health inequalities.

Understanding the readiness and willingness of PHC providers to adopt and integrate digital technologies is critical, and maturity models like DMAPP can help with this assessment.

Content from the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA)Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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