A person-centric approach to digital healthcare

Australia’s public healthcare system must acknowledge the limitations of the current ‘one-size-fits all’ mentality

Following the approval of Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy for 2018-2022, the health services ecosystem now has a mandate for transformation to digital healthcare. As healthcare moves to harness the power of digital and implement digital strategies like providing easy access to My Health Record, the Government and healthcare practitioners are critical enablers to ensure new technologies will provide consumers with improved control of their own health and wellbeing.

According to Accenture’s Person-Centric: Reimagining Australian Digital Healthcare report, Australia’s public healthcare system must acknowledge the limitations of the current ‘one-size-fits all’ mentality and embrace a more ‘person-centric’ culture; enabling a more manageable, realistic and effective system.

Digital healthcare that is person-centric has been shown to decrease medication error rates, reduce length of stay in hospital and reduce re-admission to hospital. By focusing on the needs of distinct segments, policy-makers, payers and service providers can optimise resources and deliver the right services, at the right time, in the right way.

The report explores how this change in mindset begins with the definition of person-centred segments. Accenture identified seven clusters of people, differentiated by their attitudes, feelings and abilities, which are key drivers of behaviours and preferences.

While these segments are by no means the final word on how to segment Australian society for healthcare delivery; they begin to reveal the complex distribution of Australian attitudes toward the future of healthcare. In order to realise the benefits of a more person-centric, digital healthcare system, providers and payers must personalise their offerings:

Creating efficiency through technology

Australian consumers surveyed in the Person-Centric: Reimagining Australian Digital Healthcare report feel public funds should be used more effectively, with 67 percent of respondents believing the health system to be inefficient and wasteful.

An important part of being less wasteful with funding is the introduction of electronic health records: patients are recently able to view their own medical and pharmaceutical records in one place, which should reduce waste and promote collaboration and efficiency between patients and treating clinicians. Pathology and imaging reports that have been requested by a GP, need not be re-done by a specialist who could easily view those same reports securely online.

Improving the information flow

Patients need options relating to access and privacy settings, however these options cannot limit accessibility of information to time-poor clinicians trying to deliver better health outcomes, or who find themselves in emergency situations. The data kept by GPs and hospitals is typically extremely siloed, but most Australians surveyed are in favour of treating practitioners having access to full medical records, as well as allowing data to be shared automatically between treating doctors. Less fragmented communication of health information could have a major positive impact on re-admission rates, hospital-acquired complications and avoidable medical harm.

Understanding diverse attitudes to privacy

The Person-Centric: Reimagining Australian Digital Healthcare report shows that patients trust health organisations – especially public services – with their personal data far more than other organisations. Urgent action is therefore required to securely unlock access to healthcare data by authorised, trusted individuals for reasonable purposes such as treatment or medical research. The transparency and simplicity of privacy and security policy – along with proactive education of citizens about these policies – will be crucial to reassuring the public about data sharing. The healthcare system must begin to provide consumers with the tools to easily select to share, hide or remove identifiable details from their information.

Delivering more meaningful analytic insights

Behavioural traits of patients like anxiety and disengagement cannot be identified by traditional demographic analysis. When it comes to person-centric segmentation, the right questions can be narrowed down to a streamlined set of “golden questions” – a small set of variables that can correctly allocate an individual to a defined cluster with high accuracy.

From here, an in‑depth understanding of those defined groups allows us to predict attitudes and behaviours for individual patients. Multivariate techniques can identify groups of patients with similar needs and beliefs, then generate simplified algorithms that make future person centred segmentation quicker and easier. This is an essential step for the design of future health services and policies.

Services need to adapt to different types of patients

When discussing digital healthcare, there is always the stereotyped assumption that older patients avoid new technology. In recent years, Accenture research has shown this to be incorrect. The Person-Centric: Reimagining Australian Digital Healthcare research reveals a more granular picture, identifying both a group that drives the stereotype and a group of tech-confident seniors. While digital services for older patients should be increased, we cannot expect all groups to welcome them. Initially, most new digital services will need to exist in parallel with traditional services, rather than replace them.

Smarter segmentation of Australian patients will enable Australian policy-makers, payers and health service providers to embrace person-centric digital healthcare solutions. This approach equips healthcare professionals with better insights that improve the safety and quality of patient care. The person-centric approach engages with people from all walks of life and offers them services that are tailored to their needs.

Ian Manovel is a principal director within Accenture Australia’s health practice.