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?

King said these traditional IT infrastructure players failed to recognise that healthcare is a 'protocol-driven' industry.

"The core part of healthcare is about domain knowledge. It's about making sure systems add value to the practitioner."

It's not the cost of the software license, according to King, but change management that poses the main problem to getting new healthcare IT initiatives up and running. "Training 2000 nurses and 600 doctors on a new product is where the cost is," he said.

Glass agreed that change management is "very difficult".

"Especially for clinical practice systems," she said. "It's much more complex and there is a workforce of clinicians - from nurses, to doctors, to allied health groups that are stakeholders. You are disrupting how these medical professionals have practiced for years.

"It isn't necessarily a technology problem. The pitfall that often trips people up is change management and training."

Indeed, Gardiner, whose hospital network is planning the introduction of such a system, said the technology aspects of the project "shouldn't be that much different to any other organisation from an implementation perspective".

"The main pain point is the backfill of clinical staff," he said. "You need to take clinicians offline."

The strategy

McCabe said Microsoft's vision is a "grand attempt" that "really shows some leadership".

"But you can't ignore the legacy investment in health systems," he added. "Any change will require integration with existing systems, which is always expensive, as it involves a lot of human hours. I just hope [Microsoft] knows this will be a long journey."

These pain points can only be good news for a clued-in IT sales channel. Opportunities around training and systems integration will abound.

"I want to work with people that understand the needs of Eastern Health," Gardiner said. "They need to know my pain points, appreciate the impacts of what happens when a system doesn't work or a project isn't delivered on-time. I want to work with companies that spend the time and effort to ask about my strategic direction."

While it's not without its challenges, Gardiner said the industry delivers rewards.

"I came into healthcare for this opportunity," he said. "It's the last bastion, an area where ICT can really make a difference, where it truly is an enabler of change."

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