Countries should look at digital healthcare for economic stimulus

3 Feb 2010

Countries should look at the modernisation and reform of their crumbling health sectors as an opportunity to generate economic stimulus in regions and cities, group CEO of Accenture’s Health & Public Services operating group Stephen Rohleder told

Rohleder, former COO of Accenture, pointed to the example of Japan, which is already seeing the onset of healthcare tourism based on overseas travellers visiting the country in order to access health services and in the process spending money in the local economy.

Accenture is currently in the process of forming a new operating group to focus and build on the company’s services to healthcare, government and public-service clients. The new operating group, to be known as Health & Public Service, will focus on government healthcare reform through technology.

Rohleder was to host a gathering of Accenture senior global management this week to focus on healthcare opportunities.

“I think there are major opportunities in taking strategic business technologies and helping hospitals in planning and using technology to integrate services more efficiently.

“Around the world, for example, electronic medical records are in different stages of development. Countries around the world are increasingly focusing on connected health, an area that covers everything from keeping electronic medical records to the sharing of those records across the system as well as how medical professionals use that data and use it in tandem with business analytics to understand the impact of cost and quality of healthcare.”

World electronic records leaders

Rohleder says that countries leading the world in terms of electronic records are Denmark, Israel and Singapore. He pointed also to the most modern hospital on the planet in Thailand, which gives every patient leaving the hospital a USB stick with their medical records contained on it.

“It is interesting to note how countries are looking at how they treat their own citizens, as well as the fact that they are trading tourists and visitors in a much more competitive way.

“In Japan, we have a team that is looking at the feasibility of turning the Japanese medical market in to a medical tourist location. Japan has an oversupply of doctors and nurses and view this route as the best way to get economic stimulus.

“If you step back and look at stimulus in the Top 9 countries worldwide, some US$2 trillion has been pumped into economic stimulus, but at the same time revenue collection has dropped 38pc. Governments are looking at creative ways to stimulate their economy and push financial management to a whole new level.”

Ireland as a medical tourist destination

While the notion of Ireland being a medical tourist destination considering the present state of the Irish healthcare system sounds far-fetched, Rohleder disagreed and thinks things can change.

“Ireland is a good example of a country taking the hard stand on its deficit and is showing other countries what they are going to have to do.

“The financial services industry has been through this journey, but the public service is just entering into this. The thing that they are going to have to do is alter spending and grow their market. Exactly what governments will be doing over the next 16 months.”

Rohleder said he envisages massive transformation agendas taking shape across the world’s healthcare systems and sees business trends like shared services, reform of back office technology, and a ruthless focus on driving efficient operations.

“If there’s one trend that’s at the top of my list in terms of technology it will be data analytics. I firmly believe that firms that can get their hands on data and can transform that information into insight are the organisations that are going to be viewed as leaders in their industry.

“Governments are looking at it in this way. We are having conversations with governments around procurement reform, how they source supplies and services and they are using data analytics to standardise treatment protocols in order to increase quality but ultimately drive down costs.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: The modernisation and reformation of countries’ health sectors may generate economic stimulus in cities and regions

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years