Department of Health

CareSync Exchange

Victoria's secure patient health information sharing system.

Key messages

  • The department is implementing CareSync Exchange, a secure health information sharing system that allows clinicians to access critical patient health information at the point of care.
  • The progressive rollout of CareSync Exchange in Victorian public health services will commence in late 2024.
  • The Health Services Act 1988External Link was amended to allow for health information sharing between specified public health services via the department-operated system. The amended legislation came into effect on 7 February 2024.

Better health care by improving the way health information is shared in Victoria

The Victorian Government is improving the safety and continuity of health care through the sharing of health information across Victoria’s public health system.

Complete and accurate information at the point of care is essential to providing patients with the best possible clinical care.

The Department of Health is implementing CareSync Exchange, a secure electronic patient health information sharing system, to provide clinicians with critical patient health information at the point of care.

CareSync Exchange will reduce the need for patients to recall their medical history for multiple public health service providers or treating clinicians.

Through CareSync Exchange, a patient's treating clinician will be able to access the following clinical information:

  • Patient details, including demographics and emergency contacts.
  • Patient hospital visits as an inpatient, emergency, and outpatient.
  • Clinical documents including diagnostic test reports, hospital discharge summaries and letters associated with each hospital visit.
  • Information about the patient’s diagnosis such as onset date and description.

CareSync Exchange will support a more seamless patient experience, reduce unnecessary and duplicated tests and build a more integrated public healthcare system focused on improving patient safety and outcomes.

The Health Services Act 1988External Link was amended to allow for health information sharing between specified public health services via the department-operated system. The amended legislation came into effect on 7 February 2024. The rollout of the CareSync Exchange to public health services across Victoria is due to commence in late 2024.

Current information sharing practices across the Victorian public healthcare system

CareSync Exchange has been established in response to recommendations made in critical reports into Victoria's healthcare system - Targeting Zero and the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to improve health information sharing practices between public health services.

In Victorian public health services, treating clinicians traditionally relied on patients, their families, and carers to remember which health services they attended. Clinicians then try to source health information from other services, often via outdated methods like fax.

This leads to duplication and fragmentation in the way the information is shared. Patient safety is at risk where clinical information such as past test results, medications, and allergies is not readily accessible.

Secure health information sharing provides complete and accurate health information to clinicians at the point of care. This will ensure the best care and treatment for patients across Victoria, no matter where they are or which public health service they visit.

Safer and more secure health information sharing

The confidentiality and security of patient data is the government's highest priority. The Department of Health is responsible for ensuring health information in the system is kept safe, secure, and protected from unauthorised access.

A robust Privacy Management Framework governs the operation of CareSync Exchange.

The Framework:

  • addresses privacy obligations
  • details the conditions required to access information about sensitive health conditions, and
  • details additional protections for vulnerable groups in circumstances like family violence.

Clinicians, health services and the department are legally required to comply with the Framework.

The system will comply with the Victorian Protective Data Security Standards (VPDSS)External Link , established by Victoria's privacy regulator, the Office of the information Commissioner (OVIC)External Link .

The Health Information Sharing Management Committee oversees the operation of the system and the Privacy Management Framework to ensure transparency and oversight.

Project status

The project delivery team and health services are currently working to establish CareSync Exchange in anticipation of the staged rollout in late 2024.

The first group of participating health services are:

  • Austin Health
  • Eastern Health
  • Northern Health
  • Alfred Health
  • Monash Health
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • The Royal Children's
  • The Royal Melbourne
  • The Royal Women’s Hospitals.

Health Information Sharing Management Committee

The Health Information Sharing Management Committee provides specialist advice and independent oversight for CareSync Exchange.

It oversees the development and implementation of key policies for the system and its ongoing safety, risk, and quality.

Key activities of the committee include:

  • Reviewing and endorsing the Privacy Management Framework and associated policies and procedures to ensure robust health information management practices.
  • Reviewing and endorsing audit and assurance frameworks to ensure they support the safe operation of the system.
  • Monitoring system incident management to ensure appropriate management and enable system-wide improvements.
  • Conducting reviews, providing reports, advice and recommendations to the Secretary on matters relating to the operation of the health information sharing system.

The Committee will provide independent oversight over CareSync Exchange and specialist advice to the Secretary. It consists of 8 independent members with no departmental responsibilities. Each member brings diverse skills and experience relevant to the system's operation.

Improving outcomes for patients

CareSync Exchange will improve how health information is shared across Victoria, reducing the burden on patients having to recall their medical history and repeat their health story.

This will allow treating clinicians to better manage treatment, including treatment of chronic and complex conditions.

With the right clinical information, treatment can be started sooner, and known allergies and allergic drug reactions can be identified quickly, reducing unnecessary tests and minimising the risk of medication errors.

Benefits for clinicians and health staff

Secure health information sharing enhances clinicians' ability to communicate and coordinate care. This enables safe and high-quality transitions of care to improve patient safety and reduce patient risk. It also reduces reliance on paper-based systems, phone calls and faxes.

Sharing information only for the purpose of care and treatment

Authorised access to the CareSync Exchange is granted only for the purpose of providing clinical care to a patient. Clinicians can only access and use information to inform treatment and care decisions.

Information in the CareSync Exchange may not be used for research, policy planning, or any other purpose.

Patient access to their health information

Patients can access their medical records from their public health service provider under Freedom of Information and privacy legislation.

Public health services must provide timely access to patient's medical records upon request.

The information held in CareSync Exchange is a subset of the full medical records held by health services. The health service (or health services) at which a patient has received treatment will continue to hold the entire medical record associated with that treatment.

Treating health services will continue to be best placed to respond to patients' requests for access to their medical records.

Access to securely shared health information

Only clinicians working in Victorian public health services, like hospitals, will have access to the system.

The Health Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Act 2023External Link contains the full list of public health services that will use the system.

Clinicians in private health services and general practitioners will not have access to the system.

IT and technical support staff in health services and the Department of Health will access the system to maintain it, including undertaking security and system management tasks. They will not access individual patient records.

Complementary to My Health Record

CareSync Exchange complements My Health RecordExternal Link , which the Australian Digital Health Agency operates.

My Health Record is a repository for a patient's key health information.

This may include clinical documents from local and cross-border public and private hospitals, general practitioners, community pharmacists. Private pathology and medical imaging reports can be included in My Health Record.

My Health Record is patient controlled. Patients can choose which information is uploaded and shared.

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Contact HIEprogram@health.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 06 June 2024

Health.vic

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