It’s time for an independent digital health umpire

The Australian Self-Care Alliance (Alliance) is calling on the Australian Government to allocate $6 million to fund the development and implementation of a ‘health star rating’ for digital health information and services to enable Australians easily verify the accuracy of health information, and efficacy of digital health apps.

The proposal, outlined in the Alliance’s 2024-25 Pre-Budget Submission, highlights the findings from the ‘The Self-Care Opportunity’ report that:

  • More than two thirds of Australians are consulting ‘Dr Google’ before seeking the advice of a doctor or pharmacist.
  • 2 in 5 Australians read health information on social media platforms, either directly from their social feed or through patient/support groups.
  • 52% have trouble identifying credible sources of digital information.

Additionally, there are over 350,000 apps in the Health & Fitness and Medical categories of app stores, yet there is no regulation of the development and evaluation of the content of these apps. Patients and healthcare providers alike are overwhelmed and under-resourced to be able to identify and utilise the best options.

In today’s digital age, Australians still do not have a mechanism to help them confirm the credibility of online health information and advice, or verify the efficacy of digital health tools – many of which require the purchase of devices or accessories, software or an ongoing subscription.

As John Bell AM, Chair of the Australian Self-Care Alliance, explains:

“When there is a direct cost to consumers for a digital health product, it is wholly appropriate that the Government develop an accessible resource that allows consumers to confirm the intervention is evidence-based and credible.”

“Additionally, considering the established ability of social media to disseminate information, shape public perception, and influence individuals’ health decisions, ensuring every Australian can confidently verify accuracy of health information should be a public health policy priority.”

“The new Digital Health Blueprint 2023–2033 and action plan rightly highlights the need for digital health tools to be trusted. Modest investment in a digital health information accreditation scheme and a curated library of accredited digital health information apps will deliver on this objective.”

Under the Alliance’s proposal – which can be achieved through an expansion of the Australian Government’s existing digital health infrastructure and supports – the Government would invest $6 million to develop and implement an opt-in digital health information accreditation scheme and library, allowing digital health service providers to apply for a ‘health star rating’.

In their 2024-25 Pre-Budget Submission (available HERE), the Alliance also recommends funding be allocated to rollout of Asthma Australia’s AirSmart program, enhancing Chronic Disease Management services for chronic pain, developing training frameworks and programs that strengthen health professionals’ ability to deliver self-care education and engagement, and implementing a remunerated common ailments scheme in community pharmacy.

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