What are some of the biggest issues plaguing healthcare? What do customers want from their healthcare providers? What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the digital healthcare industry?
These are just some of the questions the expert panellists examined in today’s discussion. Coming from a wide range of backgrounds they exchanged their thoughts and experiences on how they have navigated a rapidly changing industry. Some of the key themes to emerge from the discussion included:
The customer (patient) is leading technological change
Several panelists cited instances where the patient’s awareness of a product or service lead to a clinician’s adoption. Dr Stan Goldstein, Digital Health Technology Specialist at Bupa observed, ‘It’s very hard to change clinicians and the way they practice, it’s much easier to find consumers.’
Elisa Mokany, Vice President R&D, SpeeDx supported this. Her company has been creating a way to drastically reduce testing time. She says:
‘Testing can take up to two weeks to get a result. Ideally what you want is to get the results when you are at the doctors. In some cases getting that answer will change the course of treatment, which can have significant consequences for the patient. Consumers are helping clinicians to change their practices. We’ve been told by doctors and pathologists that “we’ve been getting requests for your tests,” because the consumers are worried about their own health and want to ensure that they are getting the best possible outcomes for their health.’
In other instances technology is empowering the customer to take charge of their own wellbeing. Co-Founder of CancerAid, Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh said that he was inspired to create the free app to ‘empower cancer sufferers and their friends and family to navigate each step of their cancer treatment as well seeking treatment remotely and getting in touch with others who are battling.’ He says ‘what we were trying to do was add value to the patient’s journey.’ CancerAid’s success is such, that it’s the number one cancer app in Australia, the UK and the US, with 30,000 users to date.
Digital technology can allow health outcomes to scale
In fact for Andrew Bryant, General Manager, Consumer Health Services at Healthdirect Australia, scalability is one of the most exciting applications of digital technology. He observes, ‘[Scalability] is the enabler that can buy us unlimited technology, and it’s the primary thing we’re looking at.’
Dr Goldstein also observed that scalability could make healthcare more affordable and improve healthcare outcomes, but he also cautioned that with technology context is key.
‘We developed an app called FoodSwitch. We got about 400,000 users by the first year (which was beyond expectations). What drove it was marketing. However, when we released the same tech in the UK it was released by academics, and got virtually no uptake. Ultimately, what we found was, that we needed to go directly to consumers, they were the ones that drove the awareness.’
There are still challenges to overcome
However, all the panellists agreed that the parameters around data in this industry mean that businesses need to be very sensitive. Bryant observed, ‘healthcare is not like other sectors. There are a lot of ethical considerations. It’s definitely an area that needs to be explored, that needs work.’
Another limitation to the overarching application of the technology was the start-up culture in Australia. Both Mokany and Dr Murali-Ganesh spoke on how difficult it was to get funding for their businesses. Dr Murali-Ganesh said, ‘Getting funding is one of the key challenges, we’ve found that in Australia there is a reticence to get that initial funding.’ Mokany added, ‘getting funding in Australia is very difficult. In the US, for example, they are happier to take a risk. However, I think that there’s a lot of money in Australia to be tapped, even though it’s a conservative market.’
However, the panelists agreed that this culture is changing, and that it needs to continue to change if Australia wants to create truly innovative healthcare solutions.