Over the weekend I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, my first stop before I continue on to Australia for a multi-city tour of meetings with customers, partners and government officials in the region. I will also deliver a few keynote addresses at health industry events along the way.
On Sunday while exploring the harbor front here in Auckland, I stumbled purely by chance upon the launch of the 5th leg of an around the world sailing event called the Volvo Ocean Race. Six, Ocean-70 rigs were setting sail on what is described as the most dangerous leg of the journey. The six international teams competing will now cross the Southern Ocean on an estimated 18 day odyssey where they will battle horrendous seas while dodging occasional icebergs. After they round Cape Horn at the tip of South America they will head up the coast for their next stop; Itajai, Brazil.
As the ships left Auckland they put on quite a show of racing seamanship before thousands of people who lined the shores during cloudy and very windy weather. HealthBlog readers know that I am drawn like a magnet to anything that has to do with ships (motor or sailing) and water. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I guess it’s in my blood.
As I reflected on seeing those ships leave harbor with their brave and very dedicated crews now facing a perilous journey, my head was filled with some analogies about a journey of a different kind – the digitization of health information. It too can be a perilous journey. Like the Ocean Race, we’ve made great progress but there is still far to go. Some countries, including New Zealand, are a bit ahead of the curve compared to others. While in America we still struggle to get all doctors using electronic records, here that’s pretty much a done deal. While in America we are consumed with planning for so-called accountable care organizations and medical homes, in New Zealand they are already testing the waters. Through a National Shared Care Project that I’ve been following the past few years here, primary and secondary care doctors as well as community health providers and pharmacists are all connected by an electronic system centered on the patient. Care teams can collaborate on each case providing the appropriate coordination and levels of service each patient requires. It’s a noble project worthy of expansion that is already paying off with improved quality of care and most certainly higher levels of satisfaction for providers and patients alike.
If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to watch this terrific video produced by my friends at HSAGlobal.
Recently, the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Association commissioned a white paper “Better Information for Better Care – New Zealand’s Approach to Efficient and Affordable Care”, detailing some of the country’s accomplishments in health and healthcare. According to the white paper, New Zealand’s focus on innovation has resulted in its health sector being recognized internationally as a provider of high quality and cost effective services, as can be gauged by these independent rankings:
New Zealand is ranked 1st in overall quality care delivery, including 1st in coordinated care and patient centered care delivery
1st in practices routinely sending patients reminders for preventive or follow-up care (97% – same as the UK)
Highest ratio of using a computerized system for patient reminders for follow-up care (92%) rather than manual procedures (76% in UK)
1st in practices with advanced electronic health information capacity (92%), followed by UK (89%)
New Zealand, together with Norway displays the highest physician satisfaction rate (over 75%) with practicing medicine
2ndin doctors’ use of electronic patient medical records (97%), following the Netherlands (99%]).
At the same time, the per capita cost of healthcare in New Zealand is less than in many other developed countries. According to the OECD, in 2009 New Zealand per capita health expenditure was US$2,983 versus US$4,348 in Denmark, US$4,218 in Germany, US$3,978 in France, US$3,487 in the United Kingdom and US$7,960 in the United States.
No matter where you live, we are all on a race to improve the delivery of health information and medical services to people who need it. Software and technology are critical tools that will help us navigate the choppy seas as we head toward port and the goal of care that is higher in quality, error-free, more accessible and lower in cost.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft