Digital healthcare could deliver economic stimulus

15 Apr 2010

Countries should look at the modernisation of their health sectors as an opportunity to generate economic stimulus. Stephen Rohleder is group CEO of Accenture’s Health & Public Services operating group.

Why would you urge nations like Ireland – known for its healthcare bottlenecks – to target an emerging market for digital 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 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 in tandem with business analytics to understand the impact of cost and quality of healthcare.

What countries are leading the charge and what could Ireland learn from them?

The countries leading the world in terms of electronic records are Denmark, Israel and Singapore. The most modern hospital on the planet in Thailand 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 treating 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 into a medical tourist location. Japan has an oversupply of doctors and nurses and views this route as the best way to get economic stimulus.

If you look at stimulus in the top nine countries worldwide, some $2trn 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 economies and push financial management to a new level.

Do you think the notion of turning Ireland into a medical tourist destination is far fetched?

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.

I envisage massive transformation agendas taking shape across the world’s healthcare systems and see business trends like shared services, reform of back-office technology, and a ruthless focus on driving efficient operations.

What technologies will enter the e-government arena in the next 18 months?

If there’s one trend at the top of my list, it will be data analytics. Firms that can get their hands on data and can transform that information into insight are the ones 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: Stephen Rohleder, group CEO of Accenture’s Health & Public Services operating group

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