Revolutionising Healthcare in Asia Through IT

Pharma IQ

Aging populations and a rise in cases of chronic diseases are putting pressure on healthcare systems in Asia.

Even those which have strong public healthcare systems in place, like Singapore, are finding costs rising as medicines advance and patients live longer.

Healthcare providers – both public and private – are now investing in their IT assets with the aim of streamlining their provision and ultimately offering a better standard of care to populations which are increasingly expecting more from their medical practitioners.

However, the healthcare industry remains behind in its adoption of IT and must now come up to speed at a time when new cloud technologies and Web2.0 applications are changing the landscape dramatically.

Dr. Timothy Nam, iSOFT Health Asia general manager, told "In fact, quite a number of observers have declared it as being 20 years behind the banking sector."

Dr. Nam said Closed Loop Medication Management (CLMM) is emerging as a strong contender as a solution which can drive down healthcare costs. CLMM sees the hospital's existing solutions, such as billing and patient administration into a single shared services platform.

"This approach will also provide a seamless CLMM on both conventional desktops and mobile devices, with development of new mobile device compliant interfaces enabling users to choose between traditional computers on wheels or more modern and less costly mobile devices" he said.

Furthermore, Dr. Nam said the advent of cloud computing and growth in social media were both helping to drive the use of IT within the healthcare sector.

Changes are being seen in the way providers interact with patients, as well as how care is managed behind the scenes, with younger, tech-savvy medical professionals now looking at integrating ways to communicate with patients through the internet
However, at all times providers must have in the back of their mind the additional cost that these improvements bring with them, particularly in the poorer countries in Asia. It's estimated that as many as 39 million Indians are being driven into poverty each year by high costs like those associated with healthcare.

Vishal Bali, chief executive officer of Fortis Healthcare, explained: "We need to ensure in Asia that we continue to ensure that we do not go into an era like the developed economies in particularly the US where 71 per cent of the GDP is spent on healthcare."

Meanwhile, Singapore is at the forefront of global efforts to develop electronic health records, launching its National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) system in June of this year.

The system enables professionals working under the purview of Ministry of Health Holdings (MOHH) Singapore, which includesprimary care clinics, acute and community hospitals, to access patient information in a single record.

John Vidas, who leads Accenture's health business in Asia Pacific, said: "The NEHR will enable insight driven health through the timely access to holistic patient information.

"Singapore's vision, leadership and innovation will establish standards and best practices for other regions to follow."

However, it is likely to be some time until all the creases with EHRs are ironed out. Research released early this year from Accenture revealed most underestimate the time and cost needed to implement a EHR system, there is a shortage of talent with the IT skills needed to implement such systems and facilities can expect a spike in operating costs of a much as 80 percent while implementation is taking place.

Marc Probst, chief information officer of Intermountain Healthcare, added: "We realised early on that achieving meaningful use by successfully implementing EHRs means that no one person in the healthcare delivery chain is exempt from being EHR savvy."

For Singapore, which has a relatively wealthy population of just five million, the costs associated with EHR are manageable.

But as Dr. Sarah Muttitt,chief information officer of MOHH, told FutureGov Asia Pacific when asked about how larger countries will afford EHR, "unfortunately this kind of stuff does not come cheap."


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