The last bastion

The last bastion

The IT industry is clamouring to take advantage of the huge opportunities offered by digitising Australia’s ailing healthcare industry. But will the strategy work?

In other industries, such error rates are sustainable. But when lives hang in the balance, the value of the right information - delivered with quality assurance at the point of care - is absolutely essential. "In the US, the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people die every week through adverse events," King said.

"And it's mostly from a lack of information."

The opportunity

These are problems with which the right use of IT can provide real solutions. Government funding is increasingly being funnelled into e-Health - as stakeholders in the health industry realise that they need to find more efficient ways to process health information to meet future population needs.

"The pressure on the health system will get so large, that [higher IT investment] will simply have to happen," McCabe said. "A better use of IT will be the only way to have a sustainable health system." The IT industry, he said, should see these problems coupled with "a great sense of opportunity".

"In terms of the potential value that can be delivered to practitioners and patients, we are but one-tenth the way along the journey to where we should be," McCabe said. "Between now and 2013, expect a steady rise in annual healthcare expenditure on IT. It's a great place to be a reseller."

Eastern Health CTO, Mark Gardiner, is on the frontline of this transformation across a network of five major hospitals and several smaller facilities in eastern metropolitan Melbourne.

He said the industry has "little islands of automation" - cutting edge areas of technology such as telemedicine. But the missing picture is a solid technology foundation from which healthcare can build its future.

That grounding includes network, storage, disaster recovery technologies and even a technology refresh program for hardware and software. On the storage and network side, there are growing data retention demands in the industry.

"Health practitioners need to have simultaneous, real-time access to information from multiple sources from inside and outside of the hospital," Gardiner said. "We are talking about very large files that need to be stored for a long time, but available online. If we take an X-Ray of a child, we need that large image file accessible for 21 years. I don't know how many other industries have that kind of requirement."

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