Australia to move fast in EHR adoption

Australia is expected to be the fastest growing market for electronic medical records and electronic health records in the Asia Pacific region in the next five years, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Frost & Sullivan valued the the Australian healthcare IT market as a whole at $783 million in 2012 and expects it to reach $1.4 billion in 2018, with a compound annual growth of 10.3 per cent a year.

For the Asia Pacific region, the company said revenues from the EMR and EHR market were $US1.2 billion in 2012, predicting it would reach $US2.2 billion in 2018.

Siemens, Cerner, Allscripts and InterSystems held over 15 per cent share of the market each, with NEC, Fujitsu, MediTech and CSC Healthcare making up the rest.

Frost & Sullivan healthcare research analyst Natasha Gulati said government initiatives to establish standards, regulations and infrastructure will further encourage healthcare providers to adopt EMR and EHR technology.

However, challenges around interoperability and the lack of technical skills among medical professionals hinder market development, she said. Robust EMR or EHR equipment are expensive, curbing investments from healthcare providers in the region who are already reeling under the pressures of declining margins.

In Australia, the government is actively promoting electronic exchange of health information as part of the National E-Health Strategy. “However, while the market is fast progressing towards sophisticated EMR solutions, healthcare providers find it difficult to obtain budget approvals,” she said.

“EMR penetration in 2012 was estimated at 66.1 per cent for both hospital and ambulatory systems segments combined.”

At a Frost & Sullivan forum held in Sydney yesterday, Chris Stevens, chief technology officer with New Zealand-based Orion Health, said EHR and EMR adoption and their ability to reduce healthcare costs were reliant on three major trends that he predicts will affect healthcare delivery in the next five years.

These trends are the change in the patient-provider relationship, the increased use of home-based monitoring systems and the trend towards wellness applications.

“Most people have identified that one of the expensive parts of healthcare costs is treating people in hospital,” Mr Stevens said. “Remote care for chronic care – it works really well because when you look at technologies like Skype, patients today are far more comfortable with those technologies and they are starting to expect that type of technology.

“We are expecting to see in the future; rather than drive 100km for my appointment, I want to do it by video conference. We will see more and more demand from patients for that kind of technology.”

He said the use of home medical devices would improve healthcare delivery, and the amount of data generated would be a boon to big data analytics.

However, he said that in order to leverage that data, “you have to ensure that the information is shared appropriately”.

“I have my normal patient record, which can be shared regardless of where I am getting the care, I have home-based devices which are now effectively monitored … and information from my wellness devices can also be made available.

“What all of these three trends share with each other is that it's a lot more convenient for the patient and the provider. It has the double benefit of not only reducing healthcare costs but also improving outcomes.”

On the PCEHR, which Orion Health has been involved in building, he said one of the reasons he believes there has not been higher uptake is its opt-in model.

“The problem with an opt-in model is that you are asking people to do something proactively, which creates a lot of resistance,” he said.

“The key to that is to figure out what motivates people to sign up. My son has a chronic disease so if I was in Australia I'd sign him up as he goes to hospital every three months for his checks. For me, however, I probably wouldn't.”

He said the target for the uptake of the PCEHR should not be all 22 million Australians. “Because it's an electronic medical records system, it is really about those people who are going to get value out of it. For a lot of people, for the first 20 or 30 years of their life, they are just not going to get that value.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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