Healthcare budgeting, much to learn

This article appeared on Medicine Malaysia,

Following this article on Healthcare IT News,


Technology leads hospital expenditures

Investments in HIT, data analytics and modern clinical infrastructure are foundational for providers

October 29, 2015

Hospitals are continuing to make big investments in technology as they recognize the need to effectively manage population health, according to C-suite execs polled for Premier’s Fall 2015 Economic Outlook survey.

More than 64 percent of respondents reported an increase to capital budgets this year, reflecting the need for investments in advanced technology to meet value-based care goals. In fact, 39 percent of these respondents increased their budgets by at least 10 percent.

The biggest investment for hospital expenditures is on health information technology, according to 72.2 percent of respondents to the survey.

“Investments in HIT, data analytics and modern clinical infrastructure are foundational for providers to seamlessly deliver population health services across their inpatient, outpatient and alternative care sites,” said Michael J. Alkire, chief operating officer of Premier, in a press statement.

“Increasing capital budgets are a positive indicator that health systems are better equipped to invest in building and wiring care centers that can meet these new demands,” he added.

Budget increases reflect a greater focus on healthcare providers’ needs for greater patient engagement, with almost 55 percent of respondents looking to increase these capabilities over the next three years. Additionally, nearly half of respondents will expand their budgets to focus on health data analytics.

Continuing story here..

New hospitals in Malaysia must be built on the foundations of modern technology. Curating a hospital requires an in-depth knowledge of current technologies and perhaps even forecasting future technologies and accommodating upgrading when required.

Unfortunately technology requires money. The less we put into it, the lesser the technology and the quicker it gets phased out.

The expansion of medical information and the need to manage a swath of data has necessitated this embrace of digitisation. It has revolutionised care in many aspects and will continue to be the pivot for change.

Investment in technology will likely yield benefits in the long run. Cutting costs of healthcare by trimming unnecessary patient visits and reducing medical errors or making a more accurate assessment of the patient with artificial intelligence, is an advantage that requires some initial financial commitment and trust.

Spending in healthcare cannot be compromised if we are to remain at the cutting edge of science and medicine. Spending in research, similarly, cannot be compromised if we are to build a society that can propel a country to the edge of space.

We have a lot to learn on how we budget for the future, not just for the next financial year.

Dealing with a digital life

A recent distasteful picture of a selfie during a digital vaginal examination has exposed the perils and treachery of social media. Calling for doctors not to partake of this media is certainly not the answer as well. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc are likely to stay with us for many decades to come.

The question is how do we handle this new found freedom of expression where you could ‘verbalise’ anything just by a click of the mouse. How do we manage or prevent that spur of the moment angst, often regretting later? Remember what you leave digitally is forever imprinted in the Internet, even if you attempted to delete it.

A few guides and rules to live by.

1. Never post anonymously. If you are to post anything online, the very least you could do is to own up to those comments. In this way, one might think first before putting up a post or comment.

2. Maximize the function of groupings and security settings in your social media. Colleagues may need to be separated with family members or for some, patients. Hence, postings can be directed to only a certain group and won’t be blasted out. Social media does not necessarily need to be an open forum, unless we allow them to be publicly posted.

3. Pretend that the conversations are happening face to face. Do realize that we can no longer hide behind the screen. Digital conversations are real, well most of the time, unless you are dealing with computer robots!

4. Never friend someone who does not even dare to post his photo or details online, unless you know them personally. It usually signifies that he/she is unwilling to put their reputation on the line and is not ready for the digital realm.

5. Share your digital ID with your real life contacts. That’s you after all, be proud of it.

6. Practice common sense. This can’t really be taught. Exercise this everytime you go online. In fact, exercise this with your every breath!

Social media is here to stay. Deal with it!

What should IT be in healthcare?

The embrace of digital technology is slow in the healthcare industry. Comparatively, industries like aviation and banking have long maximized the benefits of digitisation. This has allowed us to manage our banking accounts or our flight bookings, just with a click of the mouse. This ‘vision’ can be adopted in healthcare, however, it is not as simple.

I have long believed that in order for the future medical practice to fully utilize digital technology, medical education needs to be overhauled. The conventional way of teaching medicine has to change. The adage of “Do not fix what is not broken” should no longer be adhered to, if we are to move quickly forward.

Just the other day, I was introduced to 3D children’s books. I was amazed at the app which brings a 2D image to life, much to the amazement of children and adults alike. Why can’t we use this in medical education? There have been early adopters in some medical schools but we need all medical schools to follow suit if we are to ensure that the entire healthcare industry is on the same page.

IT is not just putting some digital text online. It is about maximizing the power of digitization in making information interactive, meaningful and engaging. This will make learning more efficient, yet fun. Gone should be the days when we learn anatomy from lengthy paragraphs and grainy images, often relying on our powers of imagination to reconstruct the passage. Imagine learning biochemistry using digital animation. I would probably remember more than I can now!

IT should be innovative, intuitive, adaptive and progressive. It should assist, not hinder the daily processes. The future is bright, and the investments in that future starts today.

Mainstream vs alternative Medicine

It is a tug of war. Each blaming the other of breaching ethical standards and uncouth practices of delivering healthcare. 

Often times, mainstream medicine can’t give patients the news they would like to hear. Visiting alternative practitioners who then shower them with phrases and words like “cure”, “no side effects” and “natural”, makes this avenue an ‘obvious’ and preferred choice. 

Preying on insecurities of patients is wrong based on common sense. However, regulation of alternative practitioners is poor. The Government’s attempt to regulate this industry is feeble. Hence, many alternative practitioners continue to spew half truth and unscientific claims in order to tempt vulnerable patients with their purportedly superior treatment.

However, discounting alternative practitioners and engaging in an all out war, is probably not the best strategy either. Being in Asia, it would be ideal if we can complement each other. Respecting the roles that we can play, ultimately with the aim of making patients better. Both practitioners will then be held responsible for the health of the patients they manage.

The courts must then recognize and hold all practitioners of health liable should a medicolegal case arise. Alternative practitioners should be no different. After all, they should and are responsible for what they claim that they can do.

Similarly, authorities must impose the same standards for mainstream and alternative medical practitioners. If both are to see each other as equal, then there must be an equality in terms of standards of practice.

The Government cannot promote alternative medicine without a proper framework in place. It is after all about protecting the interests of the population.