Comprehensive e-health system could save $7.6 billion a year

5,000 lives likely to be saved per year thanks to better information management and sharing amongst healthcare providers

Healthcare providers could save up to $7.6 billion a year if it implemented a comprehensive e-health system, according to a study released by consulting firm Booz & Company.

The Optimising E-Health Value study finds that a comprehensive system that connected doctors, hospitals and other points of care would enable better sharing of information. As a result, improved care programs, prevention measures and reduced errors with medication could see annual savings of up to $7.6 billion, or three per cent of total health spending, by the year 2020.

Booz & Company also found the system could avoid 5,000 deaths, 500,000 emergency department visits and 310,000 hospital admissions each year.

According to the report, the mere availability of information to different points of care was vital to reducing unnecessary paperwork and knowing all required information about a patient.

“Australia’s GPs – 95 per cent of whom use computers - are among the most highly computerised in the world," principal analyst, Klaus Boehncke, said in a statement.

"However, they are not well connected with each other, or with other points of care such as hospitals, so the valuable patient information they hold is not shared with other care providers or indeed among their own community."

General Practitioners are likely to be the biggest stakeholders in a comprehensive e-health system, according the report. For example, investing $3,000 each year in e-health systems for a single clinic could yield savings of $668,000, according to the report.

While various industry bodies have continued to advocate the implementation of a standardised ICT system into healthcare, uptake by State and Federal Governments has thus far been slow.

E-Health was believed to form part of the Government's recent National Health and Hospitals Plan, but it was not mentioned. Further speculation posits that the Federal Government will commit $2 billion of funding to healthcare in the next Budget on 11 May, a major part of which would be devoted to patient care records.

Some existing e-Health systems, like those deployed to ambulances in most states, have left paramedics with horror stories of inefficient processing and electronic forms. According to the report, e-Health systems usually fail due to a lack of centralised management and reluctance of change from healthcare providers.

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