By Rick Rome, Executive Vice President of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff
The Australian healthcare system faces numerous challenges including an ageing demographic; increasing population; an obesity trend; a rise in chronic disease and escalating capital costs.
According to Rick Rome, Executive Vice President of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s health division in the U.S.A, our Future Ready healthcare system will be largely shaped by three global trends.
“These trends will support a more accessible, quality-focused and preventative healthcare system where collaborative patient care and early detection and diagnosis will provide the best patient and community outcomes.”
1. ADVANCED INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY – we’re only getting started
While the sector has been impacted by IT and medical information systems for many years Mr Rome sees IT becoming “the most significant driver of healthcare business over the next couple of years.”
“Healthcare wearables are becoming more popular than ever and there is going to be an explosion in the smarts that support this technology.”
And for Mr Rome, those who adapt early will position themselves as industry front-runners.
“Businesses that will reap the greatest benefits from this trend will be those that can collate data sets from various sources, integrate this intelligence into a large, secure, data system and present the data in a useable format.”
According to Mr Rome, these advances will also support a true ‘alliance’ of health-care practitioners providing real-time, comprehensive and complementary patient care.
“IT advances will allow information to flow (securely and simultaneously) from practitioner to practitioner for effective collaboration between disciplines. In addition to increasing the overall resilience of IT systems (across power, mechanicals and wiring) this increased intelligence will support the industry move towards increased diagnostic space with enhanced support systems and fewer examination rooms.”
2. OPERATING COST – remains a key focus
While healthcare insurance programs and premium levels differ around the globe, they are all increasing at an alarming rate with no real sign of a plateau being reached.
Mr Rome believes that the current trend towards risk-transfer in the U.S.A. is likely to be duplicated elsewhere. “The USA’s Affordable Care Act is gaining an even greater foothold with patient cost set to rise as insurance companies transfer risk to healthcare systems and consumers.”
“As a result of this trend there will be an emphasis on ongoing cost reduction. Increased energy and operational efficiency will be key areas to consider and there will be intense competition for capital spend. Choices will need to be made. For example, will institutions increase electronic density (to support IT) or introduce a range of energy-reduction measures?
3. MERGER MANIA - collaborating and streamlining to enhance levels of care
In the USA, mergers are becoming increasingly prevalent and look set to continue according to Mr Rome.
“Independent rural healthcare hospitals are now something of a rarity as they struggle to remain competitive and juggle escalating costs. This trend is not limited to the USA. Major healthcare entities in the USA such as Cleveland Clinic and MD Anderson are establishing global partnerships and building new facilities in areas such as the Middle East, Europe and China.”
“A natural progression from this will see the major companies integrating their systems with medical equipment and information technology providers to offer a single, streamlined package that provides more cost-effective and enhanced levels of patient care.”
“These collaborative unions will have a tremendous impact on Australia as they take shape over the coming years. They will also positively impact patients as they receive an integrated, optimal level of care via a health system that supports a collaborative network of GPs, nurses, physios, optometrists, counsellors and others who connect and share relevant patient intelligence,” concluded Mr Rome.
Rick Rome is the Executive Vice President of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s health division in the U.S. He sits on the WSP Global Healthcare Committee and is involved in major healthcare projects around the world including the UK, the Middle East and Asia.
Rick has been the Principal in Charge of over one million square meters of healthcare facility designs over the past seven years including the King Fahad Cancer/Proton Beam Therapy Center in Riyadh and the LEED Platinum awarded Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Texas.