As we enter 2023, the digital transformation of Australia’s healthcare system continues to accelerate at a rapid pace.
Since 2019 the number of My Health Records has grown from just over 5 million to 23 million, which is over 97% of all records. With the peak of the pandemic behind us, it’s important to acknowledge the role it played in advancing health tech and the adoption of new online services. As consumers have grown accustomed to the accessibility of online providers, business leaders are being urged to invest in these new technologies that are beginning to shape the future of healthcare.
When looking at how to transform the healthcare industry, business leaders should first understand the patient’s journey and where technology can interweave to create better human experiences. Using a digital acceleration approach, healthcare providers can move away from traditional systems to technically superior innovations that are tailored to the challenges and opportunities they face.
There are four key areas where we will see the impact of technology in this new year, paving the way for further developments to come. The technologies involved disrupt long-held traditional practices by offering blockchain, AI, better user experience and integrated solutions within remote systems.
Raising the impact of remote healthcare
After initial uncertainty from patients and providers, remote healthcare is slowly gaining momentum by engaging patients in new ways. The pandemic kickstarted the initiative of digital interactions, as it opened new doors for better access to personalised care.
Australia has particular challenges servicing the needs of remote and rural communities. Remote healthcare is a key focus for country health services. These digital experiences include virtual wards enabled by remote diagnostic testing and monitoring devices, digital clinical trials in pharmaceutical care that cut trial costs and improve subject availability, and embedded video conferences for primary care, especially for remote settings like automated digital triage.
It is predicted that providers will report reduced feelings of burnout as these technologies are implemented within remote areas, which would be a much-needed reprieve following 73% of Australian GPs reporting they experienced feelings of burnout in 2022.
For example, by using omnichannel solutions to help with online scheduling and post-visit follow-up, telehealth technology is helping relieve the admin burden and unnecessary repeat visits on healthcare providers and patients. These virtual technologies allow providers to foster deeper engagement with patients, and the improved delivery of remote care has helped patients and providers access more advanced and efficient care options.
Bulletproof audit trails created by blockchain
An area of technology garnering its fair share of attention is blockchain, the decentralised, distributed and public digital ledger technology that leverages the power of many computers to maintain a traceable record that can’t be edited.
This year, we are likely to see early adopters implementing the technology in medical record systems in conjunction with traditional systems. Blockchain can help solve challenges for data integrity and privacy by putting patients in the middle of the healthcare ecosystem and giving patients control of their own medical data. This could be useful for distributed care settings where patients are seen outside of a central location and may have several practitioners helping them. In these scenarios, a proven audit trail is a necessity for duty of care.
Other scenarios include strong audit trails for clinical trials, drug manufacturing and proving the training levels of practitioners. Blockchains also provide a way to allow a patient’s data to be anonymised while still retaining a full audit trail back to the patient if clinically necessary.
AI innovations will advance capabilities
As the skill shortage continues to remain a burden on the healthcare system, providers in 2023 must start leaning on the automation of routine tasks to improve hospital workflow.
From managing staff and patients to logistics and inventory, automated workflow processes will reduce the potential for human errors and improve productivity. Innovations such as AI voice recognition have unlocked the potential for healthcare providers to automate long processes within their current day-to-day activities, allowing providers to spend more time treating patients, whilst helping relieve the skill shortage by allowing less experienced staff to safely make clinical decisions.
Beyond administrative tasks, the implementation of AI within clinical workflows could help counter the current skill shortage in Australia. This must be clinically safe, and so the initial stages of this development may focus on triage and on ensuring clinical decisions are escalated where required.
A laser focus on UI/UX in care models
As healthcare organisations turn to digital technologies to help with issues such as skill shortages and access to remote care, the UI/UX design needs to be equally important as the impact the technology itself will accomplish.
Creating an intuitive design that supports patients and providers in understanding how to navigate new care models helps the technology have a lasting effect. If the technology is not carefully designed and implemented, these initiatives run the risk of challenging patients and providers rather than being helpful. To prevent the technology from becoming a barrier to medical efficiency, we’ll hopefully see a focus on UI/UX design and formally measured, evidence-based approaches.
The future of tech and medicine
In the months ahead, business leaders will be learning from the rollout of their tech innovations and adapting overtime to better suit the needs of patients and providers.
The digital transformation of the healthcare industry in 2023 will be unavoidable. Investing in modern technologies, especially those that address some of the challenges with delivering healthcare remotely in Australia and alleviate the repercussions of skill shortages, industry burnout and access to healthcare, should be top of mind.
Adrian Sutherland is a senior architect in the Catalyst Group of Endava.