Rethinking digital-enabled healthcare in a post-pandemic Australia
Digital information is essential for high quality customer experience in the Australian healthcare sector. Our community has been clear about what it expects from healthcare services today, and in the future.
The Australian healthcare sector embraced the digitisation of its services over the course of the pandemic.
We see three priorities for enabling the healthcare system to grow more resilient and improve our population’s health and health equity in years to come:
1. Enhance the consumer experience
2. Improve the work life of healthcare providers.
3. Reduce costs and provide better value care.
WHAT WE ARE SEEING
Navigating the healthcare system can be confusing and overwhelming. Several factors contribute to this problem, including a siloed health system that doesn’t enable effective interoperability between players in the health ecosystem. Patients complain about repeating their story each time they meet with a new practitioner within the system.
The lack of a single source of truth also leads to disempowered consumers. Collecting and sharing sensitive health data between practitioners, departments, and institutions is an obvious solution to this issue, but still a contentious one: who should have access to this data? What will this data be used for? How can we be sure this data won't be sold or used by anyone else?
Solving the issue of privacy in health data and making individuals comfortable with sharing this personal information could be a game changer. With consent and privacy laws changing, it is important that we factor in the needs of the health consumer in designing consent frameworks that have mutual and enduring value.
Our health workers are overwhelmed and burnt out
Health workers have played an extraordinary role in managing the pressures of COVID-19 and keeping the health system operational. However, it hasn’t been without increasing fatigue, burnout and mental health issues driven by the greater workload and social isolation. International studies reported 43% of medical physicians felt burnt out prior to the pandemic, rising to 49% during the pandemic.
Looking ahead, Australia’s population is estimated to reach 35.9 million by 2050, with the proportion of people aged over 65 increasing by 6% to reach just under a quarter (22%) of the population.
Over the same period, the overall workforce participation rate is expected to decline from 66% to 64%. This decline, together with the expected growth in healthcare demand driven by an ageing population, will have a catalytic effect on the health system and its workers. Given current concerns about the added pressure and fatigue affecting health workers, the system cannot meet Australia’s future health needs in its current form.1
The system is unsustainable
Australia will be unable to afford the health system in its current form as our growing and ageing population continues to drive demand to unsustainable levels.
Based on Deloitte modelling of public and private hospital bed requirements from 2016 to 2036 first introduced in the Australia's Health Reimagined white paper, Australia must build a 375 acute bed hospital every month for the next 15 years to keep pace with demand and replace ageing stock.
Australia’s health system is heavily geared towards an acute, reactive system of treating illness. The capital requirements are substantial and even if the cost of infrastructure could be afforded, the operating costs and workforce requirements are unsustainable.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There’s no shortage of papers and thought leadership on the future of health, often referencing the importance of data and technology as enablers. There’s no question on the significance of these factors, but the system needs to be designed around a new vision and a purposeful set of objectives.Australian healthcare must evolve with a clear intention to leverage data and technology, not simply lead with them.
The future of health starts with a reset of our system objectives based on the triple aim of healthcare: enhancing the consumer experience, improving the work life of healthcare providers and reducing costs and providing better value care. Some of the ways we can do this include empowering and engaging consumers, striving to meet individual needs, investing in equitable technology, focusing efforts on workforce experience, and uplifting the digital maturity of providers.
This perspective was written in collaboration with Rowena Frith, Deloitte Digital and Jeanne Ogilvie, Deloitte Digital
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