Private healthcare organisations need to think beyond the walls of the hospital

By David Pare

Private healthcare in Australia and New Zealand has faced several years of upheaval and financial pressure. Confronting funding cuts and heightened competition, the industry must find creative, digital ways to adapt to a tough marketplace.

First, there is the funding issue. Each year, insurers present data and analytics to support a decrease in service rates, forcing private health organisations to accept a cut. Furthermore, private healthcare faces tough competition from the public health sector. Over the past few years, the government has made huge investments in public hospitals, creating state-of-the-art facilities and increasing digitisation. Some private hospitals, however, have underinvested in digital technologies.

Furthermore, we also see some surgeons now choosing to conduct surgeries for private patients in better-equipped and more technologically advanced public hospitals, which reduces the incentive for private patients to present at private hospitals. Indeed, the chief executive officer (CEO) of a private network told the team: “We compete in a public sector for staff, quality and services”. Some CEOs don’t think the private sector needs as many hospitals and that what is needed is a new approach to managing private healthcare.

Know your customer and market

The private healthcare sector can become more competitive by better adapting to patient needs and improving care across the patient journey. Private hospitals must become less dependent on acute care within their walls and expand their models of care with new technologies to support telehealth, virtual health programs, home patient monitoring and other remote services.

This change needs to be reflected in the balance of digital spend between in-hospital services and those that extend beyond a facility’s walls. A growing number of organisations that invested heavily in traditional electronic medical record (EMR) solutions, of which some reached HIMSS Level 7, are now realising these solutions do not address some of the biggest issues and opportunities for improving sustainability and patient outcomes. It has become increasingly apparent to them that they will require leading-edge technologies and logistics to support modern, patient-centred services.

This reality drives the need for different approaches with design principles to create secure, flexible digital hospital solutions that leverage the best of current technologies and can continue to evolve with emerging innovations. Putting in place such digital solutions and platforms can be the foundation for delivering far more personalised care that helps patients and seamless workflows that aid medical professionals. New integrated services might include outpatient programs such as chronic care management, mental health services and post-discharge management, as well as e-prescribing, e-referrals and digital pre-admission services that streamline the journey for the patient, produce better outcomes and reduce costs.

From the patients’ perspective, the greatest role of digital in healthcare is not just about maintaining their clinical or administrative profiles, but about how technology can address their logistical, behavioural, demographic and preferential attributes. Responding effectively to these social determinants is key to addressing healthcare’s greatest issues, and private hospitals should take advantage of opportunities to deliver new services addressing those issues, which a traditional hospital EMR system cannot address.

Digital innovation in practice

Several leading public and private healthcare organisations have adopted Dedalus’ digital solutions to strengthen their patient services. These include:

  • Victoria’s West Hume Region is deploying Care Suite, a new patient administration system (PAS) platform in its five rural health services as part of its digital strategy to deliver wider clinical services integration and give clinicians better patient oversight, building a digital foundation for the future.
  • Sydney’s Northern Beaches Hospital has implemented MedChart electronic medication management system, adopting a patient-centric approach for a rapid rollout, minimising disruption and streamlining its workflow through digitisation.
  • Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) in New Zealand sought a telehealth service to quickly scale up outpatient clinic appointments for continuity of care and a more accessible patient-centric service. WDHB worked with the team to implement an agile solution that uses its existing Web Patient Administration application and Microsoft Teams with the addition of Open Health Connect to simplify automatic bookings of telehealth appointments connected to the associated workflow.

A call to action
Although the private healthcare sector in Australia and New Zealand continues to face the challenges presented by declining funding, heightened public sector competition and greater customer demands, it also has a unique opportunity to develop patient and clinician-centric solutions that support positive outcomes. Indeed, allowing healthcare to also be delivered beyond the walls of the hospital — through in-person and virtual care — will become increasingly important for long-term success and even survival.

David Pare was the former chief technology officer for Healthcare and Life Sciences in Australia and New Zealand. He has 20 years of experience in business and technology management consulting, helping organisations through their digital transformation.

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