Despite some “exciting” digital buildouts, a number of hospital developments are still struggling with the design, development and operation of new healthcare facilities, a recent report has found.
The Government is set to deliver more than $30 billion in additional public hospital funding under a five-year National Health Agreement, amplifying hospital infrastructure development and funding for every state and territory.
But even with the boost, healthcare providers are still bogged down with some challenges, according to the report.
The State of the Australian Healthcare Industry Report: Top Trends Transforming Australia's Healthcare Sector in 2019 and Beyond report identified that these challenges include competing priorities, a lack of understanding of potential and budget limitations.
“Designing, developing and operating new health facilities is a complex, time consuming and costly task that requires effective stakeholder engagement, communication and planning,” the report said.
It identified that with improving financial performance and operating margins being top issues, many public and private health systems have been experiencing revenue pressure, rising costs, and stagnating or declining margins.
“The trend is expected to persist, as increasing demand and funding limitations strain already limited financial resources,” the report said.
It also highlighted a few key statistics around why not all organisations are ready for digital transformation even though healthcare digitisation has been epitomised as the way forward.
Forty-eight per cent indicated that budgets of over $500,000 are required to build new or retrofit their facilities, with a further 14 per cent indicating budgets of between $200,000 and $500,000. And only 37 per cent stated that their organisations are well-equipped to deal with digital healthcare and digital transformations.
[Read more: What’s needed to drive innovation and improve affordability in healthcare? | What lies ahead for the next wave of digital health and digital hospitals?]
“While the benefits of technology utilisation are numerous and well documented, budget availability has made effectively harnessing these capabilities a challenge. As indicated by our survey, 34 per cent of respondents have over $500 million to spend on digital healthcare,” the report stated.
“Alarmingly however, 27 per cent have less than $50,000, making delivering innovation, productivity and improved customer experiences a challenge.”
Growing pressures of better healthcare systems
But, societal transformations are expected to put more pressure on healthcare providers, demanding change to be addressed now and in the years to come.
The report mentioned that by 2050, there will be an estimated 36 million people living in Australia – an increase of approximately 12 million people over the next 32 years.
With the population levels rising, infrastructure aging and technology progressing rapidly, building new hospitals and renovating old ones needs to become a priority for governments and healthcare providers to continue supporting a healthy population.
“In a bid to meet increasing capacity requirements, and to more effectively cater to the diverse needs of the population, governments and health facility operators are looking towards infrastructure solution investments to ease mounting pressures,” it stated.
While a number of solutions, including new medical equipment investment, modern furniture and new green Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems is a priority for some, it is the complete refurbishment or renovation of facilities that the majority, 43 per cent of respondents, indicated as a key priority.
And technology is said to play a huge role in the refurbishment, with 87 per cent of respondents indicating that healthcare digitisation is the way forward.
[Read more: The Australian health system “will fail” if the pace of change is not met: KPMG | Changing models of care and adolescent growing pains: Digital healthcare predictions for 2019]
“EMR [Electronic Medical Records], cloud solutions and big data have been highlighted as priority investment areas, while innovations like artificial intelligence and robotics will be making a splash in the coming years,” it identified.
It also highlighted that with the My Health Record initiative gaining attention, cyber security and data privacy have become key issues for healthcare leaders and Government.
The way forward
According to the report, strong organisational cultures is required to enable and nurture new behaviours, actions and investments required to navigate the changes affecting the healthcare industry, particularly around the transition to value-based care.
“Efforts to change culture must take into account the history, heritage and attitudes of an organisation’s past, as well as the impact on an individual’s workflows and day-to-day process.
“What is heartening to see is that in the short- to mid-term, people-centric initiatives are a priority with 34 per cent of respondents, stating that optimising the patient experience is key, with a further 22 per cent indicating that culture and workforce optimisation is a priority,” the report claimed.
The report surveyed 116 Australian and New Zealand healthcare professionals from a cross-section of the industry for these findings.