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Digital Healthcare - Challenge or Opportunity?

By John Pickering & Geoffrey Mann |7.11.2022

The healthcare sector is contending with big challenges - staff shortages, aging infrastructure, and patient data privacy. In each of these cases technology can play a critical role.  

Working across the healthcare sector with hospitals, allied health providers, NDIS providers and health technology software companies, we at Sayers have been experiencing first-hand the challenges these organisations face and the potential for how digital technology can be used to improve quality of care and patient experience.  

Shortage of health workers and advances in workforce management  

The healthcare system and broader caring economy is reaching a crisis point in workforce shortages.  

Some organisations are leveraging AI to support with workforce management and rostering. Solutions like ShiftCare have created roster management capabilities specially for the health sector to help plan and organise shifts in the most effective way. 

In addition to internal roster management systems, is the rise of gig economy platforms where companies like Hireup and Mable are enabling individuals to find NDIS support workers themselves. The potential challenge with these gig economy platforms is a perceived and potential compromise on quality and human connection. The ‘matching’ process between NDIS individuals and support workers is reliant on certain data points, which may not include tacit knowledge of the individual gained from previous support workers. 

These details are often important to consider when automating any selection processes, in-particular when providing support workers in  individual’s own homes.  

Support & healthcare firms must balance the need for efficiency and quality of care by complementing AI with the human reflecting the tacit organisational knowledge of individual needs. 

Hesitance to adopt new Digital Solutions 

One of the primary barriers to contemporary technology adoption is the willingness of health professionals to adopt them. Over time, health professionals tend to become comfortable with legacy systems as they are familiar with features and user interface, to the point they trust the system, and the perceived value of change to more contemporary cloud-based solutions isn’t always clear.   

Due to this type of mindset, cloud and specifically SaaS adoption has been limited across core clinical areas such as patient admin, pharmacies, support services and EMRs. From an infrastructure perspective, it is not uncommon for GPs and hospitals to still run systems using onsite server rooms. This has also created additional challenges with respect to the sharing of patient data across systems and creating a ‘source of truth’ for patient information.  

One way to address this is to make the change easier, by taking an ecosystem approach and using pre-defined cloud modules to implement desired solutions for the health professionals within a short time frame demonstrating incremental value over time.  

An ecosystem approach has also enabled companies to accelerate their implementation for new solutions, as providers can launch smaller business capabilities incrementally, proving value quickly rather than implementing large enterprise solutions in a traditional ‘big bang’ approach.       

An example of a modular approach to development is Clear Dynamics who have pre-packaged capabilities for healthcare sector which can be assembled to compose hyper-adaptive solutions. As healthcare companies evolve and scale, they will need to continuously consider what additional value is created from each new module.   

Leveraging patient insights to improve patient care 

360-degree patient insight has become a significant focus in the healthcare sector as healthcare specialists try to access and leverage historic patient data to help make critical decisions. The challenge in achieving this is the ability to collect data from different systems across different private and public sources whilst still honouring data privacy, regulation and ethical considerations. 

To address this challenge, technology firms like Zetaris have created ‘networked data platforms’ that can analyse data across multiple external data sets bypassing the requirement to transfer medical data records to a single location. Zetaris has implemented their network data platform for Murdoch Children’s Research Institute to create unified health records system without the need to store medical data in one single location.   

While solutions like Zetaris can solve the technology piece of the patient insight puzzle, there are still broader challenges around data privacy and regulation that still need to be considered. 

While these three challenges are distinct, there is a common thread around shifting core healthcare technology to more modular solutions that can be used to drive intelligence in patient-facing applications and services. This shift requires a strong, overarching digital ambition to challenge the status quo and consider how we can support the patient across each interaction they have within the healthcare system.