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Healthdirect: Benefits, Pitfalls and Ethical Consideration

STAT6001: Public Health Informatics

Report - Future of Public Health Informatics

This assessment addresses the following learning outcome: 8. Assess the role of healthcare information and communication technology (ICT) firms

Instructions: Increasingly, the development of ICTs and continued failures in health ICT initiatives are leading to outsourcing of information provision to commercial companies. This also leads to big data being shared with these organisations outside of the Australian boundaries. 

Consider Healthdirect: Australia (2015), located in Week 2’s Learning Resources. Evaluate its role in Australia in terms of population health. What are the implications of this provider (and potential commercial providers online) in terms of public health management within Australia? Evaluate this organisation with a focus on public health information provision, and make suggestions for best strategies for Australia to follow in the future. Support your evaluation with rationale. 

Assignment Criteria: Submit a 500-word report that: 

 Assesses the role of Healthdirect and similar organisations and demonstrates an understanding of the issues surrounding the use of Healthdirect in Australia. (25%) 

 Critiques the benefits and pitfalls in using Healthdirect from a public health perspective, taking into account the ethical issues discussed throughout the course. (25%) 

 Analysis and application with synthesis of new knowledge. (30%) 

 Uses academic conventions including appropriate resources and referencing


Healthdirect is a public health information service in Australia which works towards providing helpline numbers to people related to healthcare facilities. These kinds of organizations provide a helpline number to the people by means of which people shall be able to avail healthcare facilities or call even an ambulance whenever they are in an emergency at any time of the day. The primary purpose of Healthdirect and similar organizations is to cater medical facilities to the people to curb any disease that they are suffering from and also in case of any emergency situations when no nearby hospital shall not be accessible (McKenzie, Williamson and Roberts, 2016). Therefore, these types of organizations have become hugely beneficial for the people in Australia and they have received certain advantages when it comes to their healthcare system. However, certain issues have cropped up in this kind of public health information service. As stated by Bowling (2014), these services require the sharing of patients’ personal information and thus, security shall be a major issue in this regard. Moreover, the maintenance of confidentiality of the people sharing their information shall also be at stake. Along with that, Healthdirect and these kinds of organization work by providing online healthcare assistance to the individuals. This shall be sometimes alarming for them as the doctors of the healthcare professionals shall not be able to understand the condition of the patients and thus, the medication purpose shall always not be appropriate. 

As influenced by Batterham et al. (2016), it can be stated that one of the most important benefits of Healthdirect and similar organizations is the time effectiveness. Due to the online assistance and helpline numbers available to the individuals, they shall be able to avail a number of healthcare facilities including ambulance as well. Thus, this has hugely contributed to the betterment of services that are catered to the people in Australia. Along with that, owing to the factor that this service is also cost effective as the people do not need to visit the doctors and they shall be able to avail the facilities at their home only through calls and online assistance; it shall be favorable for all masses of people. Along with that, as mentioned by Furukawa et al. (2014), this system is a more technologically advanced system which helps in the electronic recording of the patients’ health information, thereby, making it easy for the future to carry on treatment procedures.  

One of the most important aspects of healthcare system and service is ethical considerations. In the opinion of McKenzie, Williamson and Roberts (2016), ethics are an important aspect on healthcare and thus, one of the core factors of it is to maintain the confidentiality of the private information of the patients. However, in current scenario where people are required to tell about their health online, their security and confidentiality become a major issue. Anyone can access their information which shall be detrimental for them. Along with that, this system has a pitfall as the healthcare professionals provide the medication service through information provided by people which shall often be misleading.

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