Healthcare will be entirely reorganised around patients in as soon as a decade, one of Australia’s foremost digital health leaders has told a Brisbane conference.
 
In opening remarks at the HIMSS AsiaPac18 conference in Brisbane on Tuesday, eHealth Queensland CEO and CIO Dr Richard Ashby spoke of the provider-patient partnerships that are increasingly being seen in healthcare systems are simply a transitional state.
 
“Within 10 to 15 years it won’t be a partnership – the consumer will be completely dominant in the relationship,” he said.
 
“It’s their healthcare and they are going to demand that they are actually in charge of it.
 
“They will obviously need doctors and nurses and other healthcare experts to guide them in the care that they are going to have – it would be a big mistakes to rely on Dr Google – but nevertheless that partnership is increasingly going to sway from a very provider-centric world to a very consumer-centric world to eventually a consumer-dominant world.”
 
The result, Ashby said, would be the true democratisation of healthcare, with patients running their own healthcare, controlled via their mobile phone and featuring much more responsive services.
 
“The days of a lady packing up her two children and driving 20km to a hospital and paying $20 for parking and waiting two hours to see a doctor for a two minute consultation is going to be a thing of the past,” he said. 
 
“That is not a sustainable model for today’s consumers.”
 
 
Ashby, who has overseen rapid and award-winning digitisation of Queensland’s public health system, said a major impediment for this future is the enormous ‘technical debt’ that many health services are struggling with.
 
“In the past when we put in ICT, we would sweat those assets until they died and it didn’t really matter because if a computer just stopped for a while or the hospital PAS went down for an hour you wouldn’t worry too much,” he said. 
 
“But in the digital hospital downtime is death. Hospitals go into disaster mode and it is a massive issue for a digital hospital to lose its systems or its infrastructure.”
 
Ashby said the costs involved in eliminating that debt and installing a solid foundation of infrastructure to underpin the digital health system would likely run to hundreds of millions of dollars in Queensland alone.
 
“You can’t build electronic medical records and all those things if you are doing them on comms cupboards where things are held together with duct tape and hardware store fans to keep the racks cool,” he said.
 

 
HIMMS is the parent organisation of HITNA.
 

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