The future of healthcare: big data, tele-health, community care and more


During Australian Healthcare Week on March 15-17, I will be delivering two keynotes on the future of healthcare, at the Health Facilities Design & Development conference and the Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology conference.

In the lead-up to the conference, an article Healthcare 2020: what will the future of healthcare look like in Australia? draws on an interview with me to explore this space. Below are just a few excerpted quotes from the extensive interview with me:

On big data and data sharing

“One of the things that is critical not just in the health industry but more broadly, is the ability to find and share data more effectively as an industry.

One of the major challenges the healthcare sector faces in achieving this, is privacy, both from a regulatory and individual perspective and the attitudes towards how information is shared. An education process is needed to show the value of sharing personal data, as well as providing the structures to be able to share data using appropriate tagging or classification of data.

“If you think about data from the big picture or the potential of the sharing of individual genetic data more broadly, this could lead relatively swiftly to a transformation in healthcare efficiency. While there still might be reluctance from people to share personal information about their health, it will be the individuals and organisations that will need to provide leadership to drive this effectively.

Because data sharing won’t happen by itself. There are so many blocks in terms of attitudes and regulations that are currently stopping data sharing.

There are also some layers of resistance in the technology infrastructure currently being used in Australian healthcare, especially when it comes to medical health records. These records are sometimes being designed to be held within organisations rather than to be shared in any way.

The format of these medicals needs to change to promote sharing and this requires leadership to establish and propagate these standards to drive value.

But this is an ongoing journey and for more than a decade we have already had people working on these issues and yet we don’t have a very good sate of medical data sharing at the moment. But at the same time, we need to look at how far we have come and find ways to improve, because we are going to have to move in a world of dramatically different levels of data availability.

In the future industry leadership is required and we need to look at data sharing as not just a sharing of personal health records, but as how we can use data to create more value for the community.”

On tele-health

“A big part of the future of healthcare will be tele-health and the ability to deliver healthcare remotely. We are already beginning to see more and more medical consultation with medical professionals done remotely, using everything from Skype through to richer services, which allows the doctor to instruct a patient to do particular tests on themselves.

This is part of a shift from responsive to predictive medicine. Instead of waiting until something goes wrong and then treating the patient, doctors will be able to anticipate when things might go wrong and take appropriate actions to prevent sickness. This transformation is partly based on data as well as connectivity.

Clearly there will be times when people need to physically go into hospitals, which will mean the most significant driver in healthcare globally will be cost. With an ageing population with increasing expectations on how to manage health, costs are rising. This could begin to be a massive social problem, so one of the things that will become important is the ability to minimise the amount which people have to go to hospital, both by pre-emptive care and being able to consult doctors remotely.”

On community care

“The vast amount of healthcare expenditure is currently going towards ongoing chronic conditions which can last a life time. A shift to community care in the future will provide an opportunity to not only reduce costs, but also shift the focus to patient centered care.

For example, community care will mean that people will be able to live in their homes much long. They will have the data and facilities to be able to monitor their own health. As we are also going to face an increasingly ageing population, community centered care will enable us to support elderly and unwell people to stay in their homes longer in much better conditions than they would today.

This can be achieved through simple robots in the house which through memory aids can help elderly people remember things, such as something as simple as where they left their glasses. These robots can also be supplemented by people in the community can drop by and support them. We have already seen the rise of mobile nurses and in the future the need for mobile nurses is going to be far greater.

Community centered care will improve people’s quality of life, because they are receiving care in their own home and have people around the support them. This will be a more structural and systematic shift that will be driven by cost and the quality of care that people seek. To a degree, it will also change the role of government in how they can best fulfill societal needs as efficiently as possible.”

For additional insights on other aspects of the future of healthcare go to the conference website.