Electronic records, NBN bring better e-health to Australia, says iCare

The e-health company opened a new office in East Melbourne expected to create 35 ICT jobs.

Increased education about the benefits of digital health records will drive their adoption in Australia, according to healthcare software developer iCare. The e-health company this week opened a new office in East Melbourne, which Victorian technology minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said would create 35 ICT jobs over the next three years.

Personally controlled electronic health records (PCEHR) are “absolutely valuable” for “the very young, the chronically ill and the aged,” said iCare managing director, Chris Gray. While there have been political attacks and reports of slow adoption of Australia's PCEHR, Gray voiced optimism due to digital records’ high value to patient care. He said education will be critical to driving uptake.

“Think of the first time you put an elderly parent into an aged care facility," Gray told Computerworld Australia. "If you’ve tracked their medications, their allergies [and] their prescriptions ... over a period of time and [can] present that the first time they walk into an aged care facility, you can increase immediately the level of care by having that knowledge at your fingertips.”

Gray said iCare is currently implementing the new e-health standards into its clinical care and medication management software. “We’ve got a plan to roll that out in the government’s time frame” in the next eight months.

The NBN should also drive e-health in Australia, Gray said. “It’s the speed of the Internet that really is the issue for greater uptake of e-health in this country.”

Faster broadband provided by the NBN will be critical for telehealth in rural areas, Gray said. Currently, when aged care residents have to see a specialist, they have to leave the facility, he said. But that can be difficult if they’ve got dementia, mobility issues or medication they have to take on a regular basis, he said.

An aging population in Australia will lead to “greater growth in the community care market,” Gray said. Australian government is pushing for longer homecare of the elderly so that the old moved into aged care communities later in life, he said.

The new iCare office in East Melbourne is bigger than its previous location in the city and reflects the company’s growth, Gray said. The company opened in 2002 and now has 40 staff in each Australia and the UK. In August, iCare acquired UK developer h.e.t. software.

“We’ve invested in a fit out that enables far more collaboration and communication between our employees,” Gray said. Rather than using fixed desks, employees have laptops and are able to sit wherever they want in the office, he said.

The e-health company has added about seven employees in the last two months, “and we will continue now to invest in the community care side” of the business, Gray said.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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