Realising the benefits of e-health

Providing a high speed broadband network is perhaps the easiest part of delivering an efficient e-health system for Australia.

In this two-part investigation, Twisted Wire looks at what needs to change in order to derive the benefits of e-health. As you’ll hear, some of the quick wins are already underway, and don’t require investment in a high-speed broadband network. Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, national clinical lead at the National E-Health Transition Authority, talks about progress in the delivery of electronic health records. It seems that this will deliver many benefits in return for the $466 million that the government is investing in the project.

The payback on telemedicine, with home consultations and the like, are harder to define. In its National Digital Economy Strategy, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy points to an Access Economics report claiming that e-health will deliver benefits of between $2 and $4 billion. Scott Mitchell is the co-author of the report. As you’ll hear on today’s program, many of those benefits — he estimates half — could be realised without an NBN, provided there was ubiquitous access of some sort.

Scott admits that more analysis is needed to better understand the size of the opportunity from e-health. Many would argue with a growing, ageing population, the health system cannot continue as it is now. We need home consultations to cope with the growing demand.

That sounds like common sense, but next week we’ll hear that one of the biggest constraints on that happening has less to do with the technology, or resistance from patients — Professor Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care, explains that it has more to do with how the health system operates. Without reforms, most of the benefits will not be realised.

First published on ZDNet

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