2020 has been an unprecedented year in many ways. On top of an already evolving healthcare landscape, nationally and internationally, we have been met with the public and societal health challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has this stressed individuals and healthcare systems to their limits but it has also driven an urgent and rapid need to mobilise digital health technology, as well as pressure test digital health in ways and under timeframes not previously imagined. This has its obvious challenges, but it has also created the opportunity for the digital health and informatics community to stand-up and lead. For many, this has meant dealing with digital health projects, such as major electronic medical record (EMR) system implementations at the same time as managing human health. All under very challenging circumstances, while continuing to ensure the safe, effective, and efficient delivery of care in a patient-centred manner. For some others, we have also seen the rapid deployment and uptake of telehealth services, both out of necessity to maintain continuity of care but also to ensure those who need healthcare are still able to access it no matter what the situation or where they are located. Again, it is here that the clinical informatics community has led.
Nationally, the Australasian Institute of Digital Health (AIDH) was launched this year, while all these massive shifts have been occurring all around it. We have continued to be guided under the directives of Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy, and recently observed the release of the Australian Digital Health Agency’s (ADHA) Workforce and Education Roadmap. This signposts the need to support and deliver on upskilling our health workforce in digital health and informatics. Three key ‘horizons’ underpin the roadmap, which describes: the use of health record and consumer data, new ways of working with technology, and transformation. There has perhaps been no better time to advocate for our workforce in digital health.
With the workforce in mind, the annual Australian Health Informatics Conference (HIC) represents the coming together of the nation’s digital health community to shape the agenda, network, learn, share, and showcase current and future initiatives that support the progression of digital health. Under normal circumstances, HIC provides the place to discuss innovation, digital models of care, data driven decision making, and more. However, and perhaps poetically, this will not look the same in 2020. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, we will see the emergence of State-led satellite events, coming together with an online feature showcase under the umbrella of the ‘Digital Health Institute Summit’. Disruption often drives innovation and having seen the way that the AIDH and the informatics community have embraced digital remote meetings, learning, and social gatherings this year, we have no doubt that the Digital Health Institute Summit will still bring the usual (if not more) vigour, liveliness, and passion for change amongst attendees.
The number of submissions and expressions of interest to present at this year’s Summit has been reflective of the passion to continue to drive the digital agenda. We saw overwhelming interest in the form of academic and scientific paper publications. This is reflected in the calibre and breadth that this year’s publications demonstrate. This volume of papers reflect highly topical themes across various areas and disciplines. Examples include (but are not limited to): digital health in aged care, mental health, COVID-19, public health, and workforce. From the digital perspective, we note familiar topics, such as: wearables, mobile health and remote monitoring, interoperability, and data privacy. As well as an increasing appetite for telehealth, automation, bots, and other applications of artificial intelligence.
Like previous years, this year’s academic program maintains the same high standard of papers that we know and expect from this conference. All submissions were double blind-peer reviewed by three health informatics experts. We continue to acknowledge the tireless efforts of our volunteer reviewers, without whom, this would not be possible. This thanks extends to the spectacular team at the AIDH, who have been instrumental in supporting this process. 37 papers underwent the initial review. Authors then addressed reviewer feedback and were confirmed by the Scientific Program Committee. What you have here is the culmination of 17 included in this volume. Our sincere congratulations and commendations to the authors of these papers for their contributions to digital health.
Louise K. Schaper