HIC 2014: Preaching to the unconverted on eHealth

The private hospital sector will need to be presented with a sound business case that improves either the bottom line or patient safety before it will contemplate participating in the national eHealth system, the Health Informatics Conference (HIC) in Melbourne has heard.

Paul Williams, CIO of private hospital and pathology services provider Healthscope, told the conference that few people in his organisation had even heard of the PCEHR and that it will be a hard sell to get the organisation involved if there is no obvious benefit either to patients or doctors.

Asked by the ABC's Q&A host Tony Jones how to go about persuading those unconverted to the benefits of eHealth to take part, Mr Williams said his managing director was one of those who was unconverted and that “it's a tough gig”.

“In our environment, with 44 hospitals and we deal with about 70,000 specialists who would come into our hospitals over a year, they have each got their own bespoke systems, they have each got their own way of working, they are not going to change to conform to a Healthscope way,” Mr Williams said.

“In fact, we bend over backwards so they come back again. It's a bit different in our pathology business – pathology has historically been a leader in eHealth … But it is unlikely that there will be a big bang approach at Healthscope, certainly on the hospital side, to it.”

While Healthscope's 47 medical centres use PCEHR-compliant software and it announced its GPs would begin promoting the PCEHR to patients in July last year, the acute and secondary care sector is another matter, he said.

Mr Williams said a lack of interoperability between GPs, specialists, allied health, pathology, radiology and hospitals was the major barrier to eHealth in Australia. It was not a problem of scepticism about the national system, he said, because most in his organisation had not even heard of the PCEHR.

“Even if you’ve got a will and a desire, trying to make a business case for a private entity that is publicly listed, that’s got to show a bottom line return for every dollar that you spend, becomes tough,” he said.

“There needs to be a realisation that today, there’s not an obvious economic return. We do things when we can obviously make a buck, or save a buck, or there is significant patient quality issues.

"We’re very heavy on that within Healthscope, so we believe if there’s a quality initiative [that] reduces risks or ... we get good outcomes for our patients, those are the things that would obviously drive our organisation.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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