During the animated discussion three key insights emerged:
1. Patients are influencing technology adoption forward - A new model of patient ‘pull’ is emerging, fuelled by Consumer Directed Care (CDC) and NDIS reforms. Patients and families are increasingly researching online, and taking health matters into their own hands. It is not uncommon for doctors to be ‘instructed’ on the services or outcomes sought. Health organisations are already re-thinking their services and interactions with the patient and their families in mind. Key examples quoted include a Victorian hospital offering a client-experience rating app and a self-managed healthcare app, Victorian Aged Care operators re-thinking their aged care facilities offering ‘hotel-style’ experiences with leading edge digital capabilities, and care organisations reaching clients through digital channels, more effective than face-to-face or calls with younger generations or male population segments.
To increase the chances for these right client-centric approaches and solutions to be crafted, Co-design is being adopted as a standard design practice. Co-design is an iterative approach where multi-stakeholders such as doctors, health practitioners, patients and their families can be involved early and throughout, with technology innovators. Discussion, collaboration and experimentation increase chances of success, as well as adoption and change management.
From our perspective, early engagement, through Co-design type programs, can go a long way to mitigating risks of patient-direct care. But any future service offerings and patient engagements need to offer deeper value to patients so that better health outcomes can be achieved. There is no disputing that the current model of patient directed care needs to be enhanced. Technology needs to be patient-centric and should support the process – whether through enhancing patient experiences or enabling them to integrate and manage health systems more effectively to get a better outcome – in other words, streamlining data. But this needs to be measured against managing the fear over privacy issues that arise as a result of releasing ‘big data’ through technology-based systems.
2. Workforce efficiencies and challenges in tech-educating the workforce - Increased competition, changes in funding and billing, and maturing software solutions are leading most organisations to modernise their systems with new case management, time and attendance, rostering, acuity systems, or HRIS (Human Resource Information System) platforms. As new technology is making its way through the sites, wards and mobile workforce, workforce education (and change) will continue to be a massive challenge, as a large proportion of (often the best) staff or carers can be significantly under-educated with technology (e.g. age, language barriers). Options quoted to address these gaps include: deep training uplift program, create champions in the workforce, and sometimes force it through with an all-digital shifts – with great support.
An underlying trend to the above is the rise of health analytics, as a key to secure funding – a big push in the industry to collect health outcomes and care service metrics. As competition for funding intensifies, those who can put in place systems and collect evidence data to back up their claim of better patient outcomes, or efficiencies, are winning the favours of funders, governments and keeping anxious boards comfortable. Most organisations around the table were reporting initiatives in that field.
Pitcher Partners believe that using deeper analytics help generate better health outcomes. If care providers can support their claims with evidence, they are more likely to secure government funding for targeted investments, as the government is exploring outcome-based funding. Better integration of health organisation systems such as medical records, patient management systems and back office systems (e.g. Workforce management, HRIS, Finance and Risk) will also contribute to these goals when coupled with workforce education and change management.
3. Finally, most executives present were seeing tele-health shaping up as a massive shift, with successful and cost effective models emerging, many suppliers engaged, and health, care or aged care organisations looking into it. One of the key difficulties is that ‘tele-health’ can mean anything from a simple device monitoring a patient, right through to state-of-the-art big-screen-video remote consultations.
A recommended first step is ‘unpacking’ (or exploring) what tele-health really means for organisations i.e. particular objectives, specific layers of services and interactions (i.e. changes to existing or new), and desired outcomes and measures. Here again Co-design is being used to find the best path forward through the maze. Incidentally, those present reported that large ‘new entrants’ such as Telstra Health or IBM Health are cooperating with many large organisations on a range of ‘structuring’ health technology capabilities such as tele-health, but also health analytics, customer-centric apps and electronic records solutions, confirming that Australia is in the midst of a material digital transition.
As an industry, we should embrace these opportunities, and seek ways to be at the forefront of this change – through planned exploration of opportunities and shifts, targeted investments, strategic private/public relationships and partnerships, and global co-operation.
Manny Vassal is a Client Director in Pitcher Partners Consulting (PPC), Melbourne and a lead in the Pitcher Partners Health and Care Sector Team. He chaired the above roundtable.