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Australia’s healthcare system is black and white: let’s make it colour

We have an ageing population, an overworked healthcare workforce and a fragmented system.

It’s time to look at these issues in a new light. The good news: the future of health is digitally enabled and it’s here to solve big problems as we experience a seismic shift in the way we think about and deliver health and aged care.

The issues in Australia’s health and aged care can be simplified as a lack of choice, connection, and confidence. The country has an ageing population spread across diverse locations and communities where distrust of authority can be high, plus an overworked healthcare workforce and a fragmented system. 

However, we’re on the precipice of a seismic shift in how we think about and deliver health and aged care through emerging and advanced technologies. Digital health has the potential to enable a system that supports all Australians to access quality healthcare, whoever they are and wherever they live.

Improved choice

Through greater connection across healthcare systems and settings comes greater choice and autonomy for patients in determining their healthcare pathways, empowered to be proactive and preventative in their approach.

“People deserve personalised health services provided directly to them where they need and when they need it", says Deloitte Digital’s Sabine Bennett. “This doesn’t necessarily require advanced and emerging technologies –improving communications between healthcare settings, such as hospitals, aged-care facilities and loved ones would have a big impact. The aim is to move beyond crisis point to provide integrated, holistic and preventative care.”

“Using AI and machine learning to analyse data, including scans, will be pivotal in improving preventative care and the quality of diagnostics. Preventing or identifying a health problem early – from malnutrition to glaucoma – means we can avoid a patient falling into crisis with limited access to urgent treatments, as well as reduce the total cost of care,” says Kale Temple, Data and AI expert at Deloitte Australia.

Improved connection

For many working in digital health, the goal is interoperability: the ability of information systems, programs and groups to exchange information and work together. This vision is about using the intersection of healthcare, technology and innovation to truly connect health systems, settings and the people behind it all.

“Interoperability is key to solving the complex and fragmented nature of Australia’s expert health and aged care industry", says Kale Temple. “We must think about how other digital devices and technologies can be leveraged or connected to support healthcare, such as using smartphones or digital watches as remote monitoring devices to inform decisions and diagnoses.”

Residents of aged care facilities are already benefiting from an innovative new solution aimed at preventing and addressing malnutrition. Meal Vision is an AI-enabled device designed and developed by Compass Group, Deloitte Australia and AerVision. It weighs, scans, assesses, and monitors food served to residents before and after a meal. The data is fed to the Meal Vision AI Platform hosted on AWS Cloud, which analysis consumption over time.

Meal Vision

“The data provides accurate insights about the nutritional value consumed by residents, as well as early detection of malnutrition or changed eating behaviours,” says Lea Cornelius, Chief Information Officer at Compass Group Australia. The information assists staff and clinicians by informing and optimising personalised care plans. Over time, the data will strengthen and identify individual and collective trends. 

This is just one example of digital health; at scale, its transformational role can improve connection, choice and trust.

“Digital health is like moving from black and white to colour – it’s the same picture, but we have more clarity,” says Tanya West, former clinician and Deloitte Partner in Healthcare Transformation.

“Just like the Meal Vision example, data obtained through AI technology can paint a picture of trends and patterns, including leading indicators or social determinants influencing a patient’s health. At a micro level, data can be used to support tailored care. At a macro level, there’s a greater impact as it can inform policy and delivery of health care for communities, enhancing the system overall.”

The data provides accurate insights about the nutritional value consumed by residents, as well as early detection of malnutrition or changed eating behaviours

Lea Cornelius, Chief Information Officer at Compass Group Australia

Digital health is like moving from black and white to colour – it’s the same picture, but we have more clarity.

Tanya West, former clinician and Deloitte Partner in Healthcare Transformation

Improved confidence

The final hurdle following improvements to connection and choice will be to build greater confidence in a digital health system with patients and communities.

“The lack of transparency felt toward the health care system by those within marginalised and minority communities is a real issue and needs to be addressed,” says Sabine.

With the release of ChatGPT and other AI platforms, we’re observing the evolution of machine learning placed in the hands of consumers. This brings discovery of new solutions to everyday problems, as well as progress around transparency, autonomy, and digital literacy. 

However, as with any new technologies and processes, there’s a need to refine how it works in practice, accounting for ethical considerations and consumer security, safety, and data privacy. The more we see AI placed into the hands of patients in a healthcare setting, the more we’ll need the right frameworks, policy and regulation in place to encourage innovation, underpinned by trust between the patient and a digital health system.

Be connected with others and work together!

Whether you’re a clinician or technician, it’s essential we work together across sectors to solve problems. Research and networking are your friends in discovering what others are doing across the industry to inspire your own innovations.

Be patient-centred

Place the experiences of patients at the centre of all you do, particularly the experiences of those from marginalised and minority communities. From this should flow clear communication and a focus on expanding your reach and empowering digital health literacy.

Let innovation flourish, but also act on the data

Being creative and developing innovative thinking when digitising health and aged care to create greater insights is only part one – to unlock its full potential, we must act on the data. Think about what can be leveraged or connected, in terms of systems, settings and people. And test, test, test!

Build security, safety and privacy into your frameworks

As we move into an online world, prioritise cyber security and resilience in everything you do to ensure the safety and privacy of patients and help redress a lack of trust and transparency.

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