From ‘Sickcare’ to ‘Wellcare’

The Digital Hospital Transformation

With an already strong publicly and privately supported healthcare system, the country has now found itself on the precipice of what could be a remarkable transformation of healthcare as we know it, placing prevention and awareness at the forefront of its focus.

“Digital hospitals provide an opportunity to improve the quality and safety of patient care, reduce inefficiencies and wastage, support world class clinical research, and enable better management and administration of the hospital environment itself,” reads the Introduction to the Deloitte report.

A 12 February Frost & Sullivan release estimated the Australian healthcare IT market at $783 million in 2012 – a figure which included software tools and applications leveraged by healthcare providers as well as the professional services needed for implementation and support. According to CeBIT Australia estimates, the country spends just short of 2 per cent of operating expenditures on IT – less than the global average spend of 3.6 per cent.

With the implementation of Australia’s Personal Health Record (PHR) program—which allows individuals to personally manage and access their health records online—private investment in eHealth nationwide has seen an increased uptake; CeBIT’s forecasted growth for Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR) was estimated at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15.1 per cent between 2013 and 2018.

According to Rhenu Bhuller, Vice President of Healthcare for Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, growth within the healthcare IT market has been driven by a paradigm shift from acute care to prevention. However, she also stated that, “While modernisation of healthcare facilities and investment in IT has been rapid over the past ten years, adoption still lags amongst physicians and consumers due to lack of trust in information systems.

“While digitisation of health records has made it easier for people to manage their health information, most consumers are anxious about data security. Data privacy laws in Australia are expected to be amended in the next fifteen months, but until then patients are concerned about how their medical information is being stored and shared.”

Indeed, these and similar concerns over the PCEHR have made for serious critique of the ease of implementation of eHealth programming across the country.

In “Untangling the truth: Debunking the myths surrounding the technology journey for digital hospitals” – the twelve-point report published by Deloitte and aimed at debunking these emerging eHealth myths, co-authors Craig Smith (National Lead – Health and Human Services) and Alan Eckstein (National Lead – Life Sciences and Health Care) posit that despite these concerns, the emergence of the digital hospital model has already been a critical aspect of the Australian healthcare system’s transformation in recent years.

Government authorities also remain optimistic in the face of these concerns. Reports Ms Bhuller, “They are driving IT adoption by openly accepting and implementing feedback from the public and incentivising eHealth practices. Private software vendors and system integrators expect significant returns from the market essentially because there are opportunities for implementing large-scale installations spanning several healthcare providers.”

This sentiment was confirmed by a recent Accenture report, which claimed EMR and EHR adoption estimated at 78 per cent across public and private healthcare providers from 2008 to 2013 – a figure the report confirmed was expected to grow.

Siemens, the technology giant behind comprehensive eHealth systems currently in operation at both Macquarie University Hospital and Royal Perth Hospital is working to assuage public fears, by asking consumers to “Picture the future… where no Australian has to wait for a hospital bed; where Australia is the healthiest nation; where the highest quality healthcare is accessible anywhere, anytime; and where age is no barrier to a complete state of physical and mental wellbeing.”

To get there, the company pushed forth a message which has been increasingly pervasive throughout this digital transformation, that we must first get “from ‘sickcare’ to ‘wellcare’… Together we need it to transform our system to one that embraces complete wellbeing including prevention and promotion, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care.”

Already, successfully integrated digital hospitals have been popping up across the country, including St Stephen’s, a new hospital to be built at Hervey Bay on Queensland’s Fraser Coast by UnitingCare Queensland. The project is underway with the support of Federal Government funding through the Health and Hospitals Fund (HHF) – which will provide $47 million towards the estimated $87.5 million construction and e-health costs for the state of the art “hospital of the future”. Although there are a variety of other hospitals such as the aforementioned Royal Perth Hospital in WA and Macquarie University Hospital in NSW that are already integrating digital technologies into their practices, St Stephen’s will be the country’s first fully integrated digital hospital.

Richard Royle, Executive Director of UnitingCare Health stated that the project would be an example of how patient and clinicians’ healthcare experiences can be transformed by technology. “Scheduled to open in August 2014, UnitingCare Health’s private ninety-six bed hospital will not only provide vital medical and surgical services and an unparalleled model of patient care but will also be the first to showcase the future of healthcare.

“UnitingCare Health has always been committed to providing first class treatment and care and consistently redevelops and refurbishes its facilities but this project at Hervey Bay will be transformational… The advanced wireless technologies will generate efficiencies, improve safety and clinical outcomes and create higher levels of patient and clinician satisfaction.”

Through this technology, medical records, X-ray and pathology results will be accessible by doctors and nurses throughout the hospital – at bedside, or remotely on tablets, mobile phones, laptops or mobile computers on wheels, as well as at nurses’ stations.

“For the first time clinicians will have information at their fingertips which will enable faster and more efficient decision making,” he enthused.

Leanne Tones, St Stephen’s GM, was also enthusiastic for the unique opportunity at hand to provide a flagship hospital “not only for Hervey Bay but for the whole of Australia.”

“To be the first to build a fully integrated digital hospital in the nation is a privilege and an enormous responsibility,” she said. “We are putting together a prestigious e-health project team, sourced from the best available in Australia and complemented by leaders in the field from the USA, including Cerner, a major global provider of healthcare IT solutions.”

Jill O’Brien, Director of Nursing at St Stephen’s Hervey Bay explained in a company promoted press release that the digital system will involve the integration of all electronic medical records, nurse call systems, phone systems and patient medical devices such as blood pressure machines and infusions pumps.

“This will mean the development of an entirely new model of care with better accessibility to patient records and other information enabling improved sharing of information and results with patients and less time wasted trying to find other staff or equipment,” she said, acknowledging also the implicit challenges the hospital will face throughout implementation. “The digital capability of St Stephen’s Hervey Bay and the corresponding change and innovation in work practices is an exciting challenge for our clinicians.”

Ultimately, we will evolve. As rapidly evolving technologies bring forth paradigm-shift challenges, so increase our ability to rise to these opportunities. Australia is ready for this shift; we are armed not only with the technology, but also an awareness of the leap that we must take.

“Maximising the success of digital transformation requires senior clinicians and health/ICT leaders to work together to define an achievable vision that meshes with the hospital’s broader strategy for meeting healthcare needs through clinical care, research and education,” concludes the Deloitte report. “An impartial assessment of contextual constraints, such as existing technology investments, funding availability, risk appetite and capabilities of both staff and the marketplace, is critical to this process.

“The opportunity for today is to take control of the inevitable creep of digital-powered technologies and capabilities, harnessing them to deliver a digital transformation that is planned, coherent, and driven by the benefits for clinicians, partners and patients.”

Stem Cells

The scientific study of stem cells has existed for a long time and has already contributed greatly to modern medicine. As scientific inquiry continues to advance and as discoveries gain more traction and acceptance in the scientific and medical communities, the true breadth and potential of this area of study can start to be realized.

December 12, 2017, 10:56 PM AEDT

Clear
Tuesday 12/12 0%
Clear
Mostly clear. Low 14C.