“Circuit breaker” needed to drive digital health transformation says PwC

In 2015, there was only one digital hospital in Australia and New Zealand.  In comparison, the United States had 1,414. The health sector in Australia isn’t just lagging that in the US, it is also lagging other sectors within Australia. It is many years behind sectors such as financial services in engagement, interactivity and access, and in urgent need of transformation and digitisation, according to a new report from PwC Australia. The report proposes that Australia adopt the US ‘Meaningful Use’ Program, which whilst having had its challenges, has achieved good results in adoption and improved information at the point of care.

“Australia is well positioned to learn from both its successes and its mistakes,” the report concludes.

“To successfully achieve the fundamental and necessary changes associated with digital transformation, policymakers and stakeholders must consider incentivising digital healthcare adoption through implementing a ‘Meaningful Use’ regime like that used in the United States. Meaningful Use requires providers to show they are using certified electronic health record technology in ways that can be objectively demonstrated to improve quality, safety, efficiency, and to reduce health disparities.

“Ultimately, Meaningful Use compliance will result in: better clinical and population health outcomes, increased transparency, better data and empowered patients. Financial incentives set for providers to comply with the legislation in the US, have resulted in accelerated digital healthcare technology adoption. Significant quality and safety benefits for patients and service improvements for the system have flowed from ‘digitisation’ of acute hospitals.”

“The potential economic benefit, when quantified across the Australian population (using publicly available data), equates to approximately $A1.76 billion annually.

“In 2015, there was a significant investment in EMRs across Australia, but current uptake is nowhere near as sharp as in the US, where Meaningful Use – a Commonwealth incentive program enabled by the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act14 – is accelerating digital transformation.

“The authors of this publication believe that such a program would be beneficial to stimulate Australian digital health investment – and that it would be highly effective in improving patient care and financial returns.

“There is a disparity in the use of information systems across public, private and not-for-profit with no one single source of truth, no one single vendor dominance and poor information sharing across the continuum. Where information should be supporting the journey of a patient regardless of the care provider, it is siloed and archaic.

“Despite the limited scale of adoption to date, and given the current level of investment and capability in Australian digital health solutions, (from a number of leading vendors) it would be feasible to implement a comprehensive solution in a large site within 12-18 months. Available funding would determine the number of sites that could be implemented in parallel in any jurisdiction. However, the number of sites actively implementing concurrently would be constrained by the availability of vendor support resources for the Australian system. Taking the above factors into consideration, it is assumed that it would take approximately 5-7 years to deliver EMR solutions to the principle metro and regional facilities across the country.

“Meaningful Use continues to be a health sector ‘circuit breaker’ in the US. It has driven the adoption of modern health processes and technologies that are improving the quality of service and healthcare, and delivering compelling financial benefits. It can do the same for Australia. However, the approach should be mindful of lessons learned from the US scheme.”

The full report is available HERE