A long-dreamed ICT transformation in the healthcare sector is finally on the verge of being realised, according to analyst group IDC.
IDC expects the National Broadband Network (NBN), along with Government and industry efforts to reform the healthcare sector, to generate demand for ICT spending in the healthcare sector worth $2.3 billion by 2012, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 3.5 per cent.
Healthcare has long been an industry in great need of an ICT revolution, but has been hampered by poor funding, a divide between Federal and State Government jurisdiction, a further divide between public and private health systems and privacy concerns over the implification of a universal patient information system.
Such systems, already being rolled out in countries like Sweden, ideally see a patient opt for their medical history to be accessible at the point of care - giving primary care (GPs), acute care (hospitals) and other healthcare providers (nursing homes, rehabilitation centres) access to faster information about a patient's medicinal history, allergies and other vital information.
The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission released a report in June which recommended the implementation of "patient-controlled individual electronic health records" which it expected would "yield efficiencies across the health sector, particularly in primary health care."
"The desired end-state for this sector is a fully integrated healthcare system that provides patients with a highly integrated and satisfying experience while facilitating improved management of the costs associated with providing this care," said Melissa Martin, senior market analyst at IDC.
Martin said the sector requires business-related tools such as HR systems, accounting systems, and CRM; patient care applications; and "integrated applications that encompass both business and patient care capabilities such as the electronic health record (EHR)."
The analyst group predicted a generational shift in terms of how consumers interact with the healthcare system and health information.
"People are looking for the own health information and starting health dialogs on the internet," she said.
"Soon some patients will be the gatekeepers of their own health records."
Indeed, some privacy experts suggest a new generation is emerging that will trade off privacy concerns for convenience.
IDC expects the top areas for ICT spending in the sector to initially include electronic procurement, electronic prescribing, healthcare portals, electronic reimbursement and computerised physician order entry systems, before an evolution to electronic patient records.