Hospital and healthcare industries are on the verge of a digital breakthrough, according to New Zealand Health Information and Technology (NZHIT) CEO, Scott Arrol.
Arrol said hospitals, clinicians, specialists and private health providers are advancing rapidly into the digital world, which is beginning to change the way patients are being treated.
“We have a fast growing, a strong and innovative health technology industry enabling the delivery of quality health and social services that also provides the platform for international growth,” he said.
“NZHIT is the peak industry body for the health IT sector representing a growing network of organisations and individuals that operate in the New Zealand health and social sectors.
“We have seen a 41 percent growth in our network with 120 members. Looking ahead we will continue grow as we experience a considerable change in the sector that creates opportunities and risks for everyone.”
Arrol said the NZ Health Strategy has set a course of travel over the next 10 years that involves partnering to develop and implement new technological solutions.
“The government spent $15.6 billion on health in the 2015-2016 year,” Arrol added.
“That accounts for about 80 per cent of all health spending meaning as a country we spend close to $20 billion a year on health.”
Yet Arrol said healthcare costs continue to increase due to new technologies and medicines, with global health spending per head expected to rise by 4.5 percent a year from 2014 to 2018.
In this environment, Arrol believes healthcare providers are challenged to find new ways to manage costs and efficiency without compromising service quality.
“Advances in technology are profoundly changing the way health is managed,” he added.
“While the adoption of technology has been slowly improving health outcomes it is more recent emerging technologies that present the biggest opportunities.
“With the decreasing cost of sensors, the increasing power of data analytics and advances in both robotics and genomics healthcare is entering a technology revolution.”
Globally, hospitals have been slow to adopt robotics and artificial intelligence into patient care, although both have been widely used and tested in other industries.
As explained by Arrol, surgeons are already using robots in the operating theatre to assist with surgery.
“Since 2000, more than two million operations worldwide have been performed by about 3000 surgical robots,” he explained.
Looking ahead, Arrol said New Zealand’s health IT sector has a “huge opportunity” to grow its international presence and build significant export returns.
“It’s time to move more exporters up the ladder,” he said.
“In its own right the health IT sector should be targeting at least $1 billion of exports over the coming five years, that would then provide the platform for a further $1 billion-plus to be added through to 2026.
“None of this can be achieved unless we’ve a strong, local health IT industry that is enabling leading-edge health services for New Zealanders, and can use these proof points to establish offshore success stories.”