2015 OECD report
Compared to other countries around the world, the Australian health industry is well-resourced. With an abundance of medical supplies, trained professionals and high standards, there is a clear foundation for patients to be supported in the best way possible. However, as reported in the 2015 report 'OECD Reviews of Health Care Quality: Australia', there are some fundamental issues holding the country back from being a true leader globally.
One of the first issues cited was that the Australian political structure causes delays in the healthcare system. With responsibilities split across federal, state and regional bodies, information-sharing can sometimes be lost in red tape, impacting the quality of service that patients receive. In more serious cases, information has been lost between departments and patients have gone off-track trying to navigate the various processes in play.
These communication problems in the Australian health sector also extend to care coordination. Between terms such as "primary care" and "community health", the OECD noted that services can be doubled up, costing taxpayers and generally being confusing for patients seeking care in their local region.
Of course, this is not a new issue in Australia. Decision-makers have known for years about the complex nature of the sector, but have done little to address shortcomings through solutions such as technology. In fact, the OECD report described the uptake of electronic health solutions as "slow and disappointing" and the lack of quality patient data available "surprising".
What is the role of technology in the health industry?
Though information technology is seen as a solution moving forward, as an article on The Conversation noted, there are often barriers to adoption. This includes the "relatively low organisational abilities of our current health services" and the "extremely high cost" of various options across the system. While the topic of collaboration and communication in the national healthcare industry will continue for the foreseeable future, this isn't stopping individual GP practices, hospitals and medical facilities from investing in cost-effective technology such as web conferencing and teleconferencing.
By taking a proactive stance on patient care and inter-departmental communication, these practices will begin to see productivity improvements across the board - enhancing patient outcomes and saving valuable resources. At the end of the day, medical professionals have a duty to support their patients to the best of their ability, and at the moment there are certainly better ways of getting good results available. Let's take a look at both web conferencing and teleconferencing to analyse how each can improve various processes and structures in the Australian healthcare system.
Web conferencing in the medical industry
Put simply, web conferencing allows two or more parties to interact visually in a virtual meeting. The host has the ability to share their screen with those participating in the web conference and present various forms of media including slideshows, documents, videos and diagrams. In relation to healthcare, web conferencing can be a valuable tool.
- Collaborating with other medical specialists
With many rural medical facilities in Australia, medical professionals in these areas can be isolated from their urban counterparts and this can impact the quality of service for patients with particular requirements. As such, GPs can use web conferencing to share patient test results, medical histories or even x-rays with specialists in larger cities. By viewing this data and information in real time, the professionals can discuss patient needs and collaboratively reach a decision.
- Relaying prognosis and information to patients
This situation can also work in reverse, where either patients or doctors can't reach each other for whatever reason. Through the medium of web conferencing, medical professionals can carry out follow-up visits virtually and still engage with their patients on a personal level. Of course, there is always the concern that certain patients can't operate web conferencing technology. However, this is where Eureka Teleconferencing is of value.
As the host, doctors can simply provide a URL and code for patients to follow. The process is quick and simple, and if there are any issues, Eureka Teleconferencing have a 24/7 Australia-based help desk available to answer any questions!
Teleconferencing in the medical industry
Essentially, teleconferencing is a phone-based meeting which can support over 1000 different participants at once. With a simple guest code, medical professionals can communicate more effectively and improve the quality of their patient care.
- Opening communication channels
As mentioned above, the Australian healthcare industry can be a maze for patients and medical professionals to navigate productively. With emails, faxes and other dated forms of communication in use, it can be weeks, months or even years before various decisions are made. Take elective surgery wait times, for example.
According to the 'Elective surgery waiting times 2014-15: Australian hospital statistics', during the 2014-15 financial year, the average wait time for elective surgery was 35 days. While this was a slight improvement from the year before, any form of delay is to the detriment of the patient. However, with technology like teleconferencing available, processes such as elective surgery can be sped up if all parties have the information that they need - patient information, hospital availability and procedure data, for example.
- Providing similar training processes
Training and development is critical in the healthcare industry as technology continues to change. As such, major training initiatives through a teleconference can ensure that all professionals are on the same page. In addition to bringing in outside experts without the travel and time costs, any professionals who can't make it in person can attend virtually.
Want to learn more?
With collaboration and communication vital to the growing pressures on the Australian healthcare sector, it is wise for various providers to consider the benefits of web conferencing and teleconferencing. To learn more, feel free to get in contact with our expert team today.