On Our Agenda: Looking Towards the Future of Healthcare

By Sharon Smith
Thursday, 06 August, 2015


Technology company Polycom conducted a survey of over 1,200 healthcare professionals between October 2014 – April 2015. The respondents were asked about what they believed were the greatest challenges to the future of healthcare. While funding and access to healthcare were clear leaders in current challenges to healthcare, North American respondents indicated that the heavy demand on health service infrastructure was the biggest strain on their own industry. To overcome these healthcare bottlenecks by 2025, technology developments such as mobile, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data, will play a critical role.
So how to we get to where we need to be in a decade’s time?
Assessment: Where are we now?
Healthcare professionals globally are convinced that technology, such as personal health monitoring devices and video collaboration solutions, will play a vital role in creating a positive healthcare future. According to the survey, by 2025 primary care will be accessible to all citizens, regardless of distance thanks to the increased availability of broadband, mobile devices and applications.
“Incorporating technology like video into the delivery of healthcare services will be critical in creating a positive healthcare future globally. For instance, services such as virtual consultations and remote monitoring, mentioned in participant responses, can enable nations to make healthcare accessible to almost everyone. This will be vital in tackling many of the challenges that will impact the industry over the coming years,” said Ron Emerson, Global Director, Healthcare at Polycom.
Additionally, 63% of respondents agreed that virtual healthcare services to homes will be a realistic scenario in 2025 due to technology advancements. These would include virtual outpatient services, as well as remote diagnosis for the elderly and physically disabled, amongst others.
“For healthcare providers, video-enabled care delivery makes strategic and financial sense. For patients, it puts management of their health back in their own control, reducing unnecessary travel time and expenditure. Likewise, for medical professionals, collaboration technology can provide opportunities in coordinated care delivery, peer consultations, and continuing medical education.”
We have already seen the enthusiasm behind telehealth and mhealth being rolled out in Australia through rural consultations from GP surgeries and regional hospitals. It’s a crucial part of our healthcare infrastructure in a place as geographically large and diverse as Australia.
So if those at the forefront of technology are eager to adopt integrative technology and are already seeing benefits, what could hold back a full-scale rollout across the industry? Technological skills, it seems.
Next steps
Based on industry figures, there are less than 10% of non-executive directors across APAC’s top 20 listed companies who have deep technological experience. When technology and telecommunication boards are excluded, this figure drops to less than 5%. The report believes that the healthcare industry follows a similar pattern.
"To truly capitalise on the increasing technological advancement, including more devices for personal connectivity and with that an increase in data, it is vital to have leaders within healthcare establishments who will embrace and champion the use of technology for the provision of services and streamlining administration. This will help in ensuring that innovative solutions are properly embedded into workflows, as well as adopted by employees throughout the organisation and beyond,” said Emerson.
In addition, there is also a need for the industry to increase focus on preventive models of healthcare that reduce hospitalisation and treatment cost – it is definitely more efficient to move information than to move people. This means collaboration across the extended care team, as well as with the patient and family, is critical. However, this can’t be done effectively without underlying technology support.
He adds that as economies-of-scale are reached, the cost of healthcare, whether it is borne by the patient or the industry, will also be significantly reduced. “Ultimately, it is critical that the healthcare industry focuses on long-term benefits, rather than short-term costs, to ensure a positive healthcare future by 2025.”
To emphasise that point,

it is vital to have leaders within healthcare establishments who will embrace and champion the use of technology

So whether you are already a leader in your organisation, or you are passionate about the benefits technology can bring to the healthcare industry, the time is now to start working towards a future where technology is used for reducing costs, streamlining functions, finding solutions, providing new services and doing more with less. It’s up to you to build the future.
Survey note: Note: In APAC, respondents from Australia (43.87%) and India (27.23%) made up the majority; in EMEA, it was the UK (50.46%) and France (19.88%); and all respondents from North America came from the United States.
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