Report reveals future priorities of the world's healthcare leaders

Thursday, 20 May, 2021

Report reveals future priorities of the world's healthcare leaders

 Royal Philips has released its Future Health Index 2021 Australian report investigating healthcare professionals’ thoughts on the state of the industry, where technology will make a difference, and our current and future healthcare policies.

Based on research across 14 countries, with insights from almost 3000 healthcare leaders, the report — A Resilient Future: Healthcare leaders look beyond the crisis — is claimed to be the largest global survey of its kind to analyse the current and future priorities of healthcare leaders worldwide.

Feedback from Australian healthcare leaders — including executive officers, financial officers, technology and information officers, operations officers and more — addressed the challenges they have faced since the onset of the pandemic, and where their current and future priorities lie, revealing a new vision for the future of healthcare. With a focus on patient-centred health care enabled by smart technology, their vision is shaped by a fresh emphasis on partnerships, sustainability and new models of care delivery, both inside and outside the hospital.

“The effects of COVID-19 have undoubtedly taken a toll on the global healthcare sector. Through it all, and as we enter the recovery phase of the pandemic in Australia, we remain one of the few industrialised nations to have implemented an effective national response,” Philips Australia & New Zealand Managing Director Matt Moran said.

“The Future Health Index 2021 Australian report highlights how Australia’s healthcare leaders have not only effectively managed the pandemic, but how the decisions made over the last year will inform the sector’s ability to strengthen health system resilience and deliver futureproof care,” Moran continued.

Health care’s approach to digital transformation is shifting

Australia’s adoption of digital care delivery models during the pandemic has increased the demand for future investments in digital health technologies. Between 13 March 2020 and 21 April 2021, more than 56 million COVID-19 telehealth services were delivered to 13.6 million patients, as a result of national policy changes and extension of Medicare benefits.

In Australia, nearly two in three (63%) healthcare leaders say telehealth is currently the top digital health technology their hospital or healthcare facility is investing in — far above Singapore (42%) and China (47%). Looking forward, investment in telehealth will make way for further adoption of new digital solutions, with a focus on predictive technologies, specifically AI according to the Future Health Index 2021 report.

Almost one-third (29%) of healthcare leaders say their hospital or healthcare facility most needs to invest in implementing predictive healthcare technologies in three years’ time to be prepared for the future, with 77% saying AI is one of the digital health technologies they would most like to invest in.

Healthcare leaders will shift current AI investment priorities to further support:

  • optimising operational efficiency (from 26 to 35%)
  • integrating diagnostic systems (from 13 to 32%)
  • clinical decision-making (from 3 to 25%)
  • predicting healthcare outcomes (from 2 to 29%).

These priorities reflect the recommendations from a recent CSIRO report, COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience, which references improved point-of-care diagnostics as well as preventative and precision medicine solutions, enabled by advanced digital technologies, as opportunities to support health system recovery.

To meet these digitalisation goals, almost half (45%) of Australian healthcare leaders want to collaborate with health informatics companies to help drive their digital transformation agenda. However, these bold ambitions face multiple challenges ahead of being realised.

“Australia’s healthcare leaders’ desire to engage partners focused on supporting their digitalisation goals is encouraging,” Moran said.

“Telehealth services provided Australians and healthcare professionals with a safe and reliable method for patient treatment during COVID-19 and demonstrated to practitioners the effectiveness of remote care solutions. This has paved the way for more advanced virtual care solutions to be adopted by both the public and private healthcare sectors nationally.”

Australia’s challenges to modernisation

More than one-third (43%) of Australian healthcare leaders noted their staff’s lack of experience with new technologies as an internal barrier impeding their ability to plan for the future. Despite this, only around a third (30%) of healthcare leaders in Australia consider staff training necessary to implement digital health technologies successfully. Additional barriers to the adoption of digital health technology in hospitals or healthcare facilities include lack of data interoperability or data standards across technological systems and platforms (33%), as well as financial and budgetary constraints (30%). Meanwhile, supply chain issues (32%) and staff shortages (29%) — both of which have been exposed as vulnerabilities by the pandemic –— were cited as internal barriers impeding the ability to plan for the future.

A prevailing optimism, despite challenges

The vast majority (81%) of Australian healthcare leaders feel that Australia’s healthcare system has shown resilience in how it has coped with the challenges of COVID-19. While the global pandemic had a severe impact on global health systems, about four in five (84%) healthcare leaders say they are confident in the ability of Australia’s healthcare system to deliver quality care as they look towards the future.

Although 67% of healthcare leaders believe that current healthcare policies in Australia have contributed to system resilience, post-pandemic policies focusing on the social determinants of population health, breaking down departmental silos and improved data sharing can reflect lessons learned from the pandemic as similarly noted by the Australian Hospitals and Healthcare Association.

Increased focus on sustainable care models

Philips’ Future Health Index 2021 report found that within the next three years, nearly a quarter (24%) of routine care delivery on average is expected to take place outside of hospital walls. This represents a moderate increase from the 21% on average delivered currently.

Only 4% of Australian healthcare leaders consider embedding sustainable practices in their hospital or healthcare facility a current priority. With Australia’s healthcare sector responsible for 7% of the nation’s carbon footprint, the Future Health Index report found that implementing environmentally sustainable practices will become a leading priority for 38% of Australian healthcare leaders over the next three years.

Image courtesy of Philips.

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