IT and healthcare: partners in progress
29 December 2015
Technology is now commonplace everywhere we look. So it would be easy to assume that the healthcare sector – where machines dominate left, right and centre – is completely savvy and up-to-date. But the reality is that healthcare remains largely pre-digital. It is one of the only industries to still rely on fax, phone and mail to contact patients and workers.
With Australia’s ageing population, there is a strong need for healthcare professionals with leadership and IT skills to bring the sector up-to-speed. The industry will exponentially benefit from new software, systems and management strategies that can be implemented swiftly, nationwide.
Sourcing capable skills a healthcare challenge
In Australia, the use of technology to facilitate patient care presents a wealth of possibility. For example, the installation of NBN broadband in Perth enabled local healthcare workers to receive training and carry out 1200 ophthalmology tests remotely in regional areas, then return the data back to metropolitan hospitals. Such programs can significantly improve patient care in Australia regardless of proximity to major cities. Unfortunately, leaders dedicated to the healthcare sector and IT experts with strategic, lateral thinking skills, and the ability to develop and roll out innovative systems are in short supply.
How IT can benefit the healthcare sector in the future
The advancement of technology will help healthcare professionals Australia-wide facilitate interdepartmental communication. Currently, most primary care doctors, specialists, counsellors and other practitioners still keep their own patient records. There is no common way of storing information (in ‘the cloud’, for example), and this makes information-sharing challenge when patients move from one institution to another. Some progress has been made with the development and implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). However, the way in which the system is enforced and maintained in the healthcare industry presents its own unique set of challenges.
Encouraging the use of online and data analysis tools could also address the growing number of age-related illnesses and lifestyle-induced disease. For example, video calling could revolutionise initial appointments. Diagnoses could be made more quickly and conveniently, easing the strain on healthcare facilities and seeding a prioritisation system that prevents delay for those in need of urgent care.
Additionally, the use of app technology is set to revolutionise the way we care for chronically-ill patients, with practitioners now able to monitor a patients’ vitals remotely and patients having more control of symptom and medication management.
The role healthcare professionals can play
While it is widely accepted there should be constant innovation in the Australian healthcare systems, IT managers and healthcare pioneers are hard to come by. Niche expertise and distinctly specialised abilities equip such professionals to identify opportunities and devise unique solutions. If you’re ready to push the healthcare system in Australia into the future, consider undertaking postgraduate study.