Australia’s new digital health CEO ready to revive e-health

By Stephen Easton

Monday August 1, 2016

The federal government has appointed Tim Kelsey as chief executive of the Australian Digital Health Agency, less than a year after he came to Australia to work as commercial and strategy director for Telstra Health.

Kelsey (pictured) brings unique experience to the role as a healthcare IT and communications professional, an advocate for transparency and quality in public services, and a former journalist lauded for his investigative and war reporting a few decades ago. He is certainly no stranger to using the power of information and digital technology to encourage better healthcare outcomes.

Up until December 2015, Kelsey was director for patients and information with the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, a role that combined the jobs of chief technology officer and chief information officer with responsibility for patient and public participation, marketing, brand and communications. Prior to that, he was the UK government’s executive director of transparency and open data.

Kelsey was also involved in design of a new digital health strategy for the NHS as the first chair of the UK’s National Information Board, which came with the title of national information director in health and care. And he designed and launched the NHS Choices information website which has “transformed access to apps and mobile digital services for patients and citizens in England” according to the minister’s statement.

Several years before working for the NHS, Kelsey co-founded a pioneering company that publicly tracked its performance, called Dr Foster.

TIm KelseyA UK government entity, the NHS Information Service, then bought a 50% stake in that company a few years later as the new information it was publishing stirred national debate about healthcare performance.

The transaction proved controversial, however. An anonymous tip-off triggered an audit office investigation which reported concerns about value for money and probity, and a parliamentary inquiry report suggested UK taxpayers had paid about twice as much as they should have. The company was re-launched as Dr Foster Intelligence, and later bought by Telstra Health, where Kelsey was employed for most of this year.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced Kelsey would start in mid-August, and said the new agency, which replaced the National E-Health Transition Authority, would focus on “engagement, innovation and clinical quality and safety” as well as its main task — getting electronic health records back on track. The project, now rebranded as the MyHealth Record, had stalled after privacy concerns led to national e-health records being launched on an opt-in basis, resulting in low take-up.

ADHA’s most important role is as system operator for the revamped records, says Ley, and she is “delighted” that Kelsey has taken on the job:

“He is internationally regarded as a leader in digital health, in both the private and public sectors, and has a proven track record in delivery of digital health services.”

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