Collaboraction, simplification and other predictions for 2019

Regular column by Scott Arrol, CEO of New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT)

Taking action together, breaking complex issues into smaller, more achievable steps and really knowing health consumers’ need will be keys to success this year.

Welcome back and I trust that you had an excellent break over the festive season. Given how busy we all were towards the end of last year, 2018 seemed to end abruptly and now it’s starting to feel that we’re well into 2019 already.

Before the urgent overpowers the important, it’s always good to use the crystal ball to see what the year ahead is going to bring. The following are some quick snapshots from me.

Partnerships and working together will be more important than ever

We all operate in a relatively small country, and even smaller health sector, and our advantage should therefore be that we’re able to create better health outcomes for New Zealanders more effectively and efficiently.

However, despite all the rhetoric about collaborating, this does seem to be a struggle to achieve. I believe this is because we’re collectively not moving quickly enough from the ‘forming’ to ‘performing’ stages and we must become far more focused on ‘collaboraction’ – moving from talking about collaboration to actually working together to make good things happen.

Simplification will determine success

By its very nature, the health sector engenders a great deal of complexity. After all, we’re dealing with people’s lives and it’s not possible to take a one-size-fits-all approach.

However, complexity always adds cost and limits the chances of success. This doesn’t mean that we should avoid doing complex things. It means that the ability to break it down into simple and achievable parts is crucial.

We must put a value on the ability to create a simplified approach to collaboraction as it’s not easy for two or more parties to come together unless this occurs.

The customer truly does matter

Regardless of whether we call them patients, consumers, clients or customers, there is no doubt that the global trend is finally moving towards fully understanding what people value from their healthcare providers (public and private). Success is going to be defined by those who very clearly know who their customers are and how they’re going to add value to their lives.

We’re going to see an even sharper rise in the use of various applications to capture and monitor customer feedback and satisfaction in the health space. This is already causing discomfort among some areas of the health sector, and 2019 is going to be challenging the norms when it comes to customers finding their voice.

Consumer advocacy groups will also find this challenging as individuals are increasingly able to influence change themselves. On the other hand, healthcare providers that can positively tap into this trend are going to find a whole new way of operating that changes their current operating models and positions them for long-term success.

Security and privacy are a bigger deal than we think

It has only been a matter of pure luck that New Zealand’s health system hasn’t yet been subject to a major cybersecurity breach. It’s going to happen, and we’re currently not prepared for it. Guess what the cyber “baddies” are doing better than us in this regard: collaboraction and simplification!

While we’re talking about improving security and privacy of data, they’re already working together in very direct and simple ways to make money from it. This is already a global problem and New Zealand is not going to be an exception.

Analytics and machine learning

We’re on the cusp of a major revolution when it comes to the smarter use of data to determine health outcomes. While 2019 is not going to be the ‘year of the health robot’, I think that we will look back in 10 years’ time and realise this was the year that the sector started to come to grips with the power of AI and how to harness it for positive use.

Virtual healthcare is on the rise

The use of the word ‘virtual’ causes a few concerns among many health professionals, as it can be interpreted as being healthcare that isn’t quite real. However, it is increasingly being used as a way of describing healthcare services and supports that are provided where the customer and the provider are not in the same room together.

This is challenging many of us, but it isn’t going to stop the pace of growth in this area. Models of care, business models, funding approaches, human resources and technologies are all changing to create numerous options and offerings that are putting pressure on the traditional bricks-and-mortar approach to healthcare.

Underpinning this is the need for digital technologies to enable these changes, so care and support is provided effectively, efficiently and safely for all concerned. When you throw cybersecurity and analytics into the mix, then the need for collaboraction and simplification becomes paramount when it comes to the delivery of healthcare in a virtual way.

Mental health and wellbeing are important

Last, but not least, we must see a quantum shift in this area of the health sector. The report from the extensive mental health review was disappointing. It has sadly missed an excellent opportunity to describe a complete change to the way mental health services are provided in this country.

We have got to shift away from a secondary care, institutionalised approach to an individualised focus that happens in the home and community setting based on collaboraction involving the whole sector. Primary care has a huge part to play in this, but the current funding model has got to change to incentivise the right outcomes.

As far as digital technologies are concerned, the mental health and wellbeing space is not being serviced adequately. This must change, and I believe 2019 will bring some exciting approaches supported with new ways of working, new business models and a more proactive approach to providing support and recovery.

Crystal ball gazing is a risky business and not all of my predictions above will be accurate. However, the one thing that we’ll all agree on is that change is already happening. Moore’s Law tells us there’s a whole lot more coming at us at an even faster pace than before.

Scott Arrol is the CEO of New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT).

Published eHealthNews NZ  2019

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