Australia has ranked last in its adoption of connected care technologies in the healthcare sector, according to research into the future-readiness of the healthcare systems of 19 nations, but Australians believe their system is far more digitally interconnected than it is.
 
With a “reality” score of 9.1 out of 100, Australia’s bottom ranking places it a stunning 31.9 points below the next lowest ranked healthcare sector of Saudi Arabia, which scored 41.
 
Despite the reality, many Australians perceive their healthcare system to have already implemented connected care devices and policies, earning a “perception” score of 50.5.
 
The last place slot in the connected care technologies category was a reflection of Australia’s low levels of spending on IoT hardware as a percentage of GDP and the lack of a cohesive health technology policy, according to the report commissioned by Royal Philips.
 
Yet the vast majority of healthcare professionals in Australia view connected care technology as important in improving the treatment (84 per cent) and diagnosis (82 per cent) of medical conditions.
 
“Australia is now falling behind globally,” Managing Director of Philips Australia and New Zealand, Kevin Barrow, said.
 
Industry initiatives such as the My Health Record are strong stepping stones in seeing patients take more ownership of their own health, Barrow said, but policy makers and private companies need to support industry in recognising the potential of technologies in healthcare.
 
“We need to move away from the current episodic diagnosis and treatment model. The adoption of connected care will greatly facilitate this, but getting it right requires input across both the public and private sectors, and policy-makers. Australia currently lacks industry-wide policy around integration and connected care technologies, and while discussions are happening, we are yet to see effective action.”
 
The problem is cost, with the Future Health Index finding 53 per cent of the population is concerned that the technologies will increase the price of healthcare, while 69 per cent of healthcare professionals believe that current funding mechanisms will prevent Australia from moving to a patient centric healthcare system.
 
But Barrow said connected care brings with it cost benefits.
 
“The perception exists that connected care technologies will increase the cost of care for both patients and industry, which has seen a resistance from the general population and healthcare professionals to engage with connected care technologies. However, we argue the opposite is true.”
 
The efficiencies created by these devices also advantage patients and practitioners, and can lead to improved care.
 
“This means that patients don’t need to re-explain their medical history each time they see a healthcare professional, they can more effectively monitor their own health, and it opens doors for healthcare practitioners to monitor patients from afar, intervening before patient health veers off course,” Barrow said.
 
“What we see is that connected care systems actually can have a huge impact breaking down siloes within the health system, increasing efficiencies across the patient care team, improving health outcomes, and ultimately reducing cost of care for the sector,” Barrow said.
 
This year’s Future Health Index surveyed 33,000 healthcare workers, insurance professionals and members of the public in 19 countries on their perceptions of three categories – access to care, integration of health systems, and adoption of connected care technologies in their healthcare systems – and used third-party data to devise a perception index. Secondary data sourced from the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the International Data Corporation (IDC) was used to develop the reality index.
Australians also overestimated the level of integration and data sharing within the healthcare system, with a 54.1 perception index score, compared to the reality index score of 18.4. Australia ranked 11th of the 19 countries for integration, reflecting low levels of spending on software and connectivity as a percentage of GDP compared to other markets.
Australia improved substantially in the access to care category, coming in at third out of 19, with a reality index score of 79.7. However, Australians underestimated their healthcare sector’s performance in providing healthcare to those who need it, leading to a 73.7 perception score.
 
The research also found that about half of Australian healthcare professionals surveyed believe they are somewhat or extremely knowledgeable about connected care technologies.
 
Australia achieves above average health outcomes, according to the report’s efficiency ratio, but it spends more than average on healthcare as a percentage of GDP.
Meanwhile, about 80 per cent of Australian healthcare professionals believe the system meets patient needs, and only 62 per cent of the general population agrees.