Orion targets 'Facebook of healthcare'

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013

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Orion's founding majority owner and chief executive Ian McCrae said trends towards creating electronic medical records and storing them on cloud servers meant patients and their doctors could build a much more interactive relationship over the internet.

Though it was not likely to be a social network where people shared their medical records, McCrae believed the potential for self-reporting of health indicators and real-time conversations between doctors and patients would lead to a more interactive approach to health.

"Society is now so used to Facebook, accessing bank accounts online, emailing, using Skype and all these technologies, it seems only logical that people should also have similar access to their medical records," said McCrae, who started Orion in Auckland in 1993 with a view to the global future of digitised healthcare.

"That's not just viewing your last lab results, but also full participation, having targets and goal perhaps, being able to talk to your clinician, or talking to others with similiar conditions and complaints."

The prospect of adding an individual's genome to their medical profile was also becoming more likely with the cost of a genetic map sneaking below US$1000 (NZ$1190) for the first time, McCrae said.

Knowing your genome would influence medical and lifestyle decisions daily, he said.

"Once you get involved in your own medical records and your own healthcare you find that people take a greater interest and suddenly they get healthier.

"Historically most roads have led to doctors making determinations, but the problem now is that people are increasingly distrusting of doctors - they're doing research before and after [consultations] and so it must be very difficult for doctors now."

Orion Health has 720 staff, offices in 11 countries, customers in 30 countries and will achieve a turnover of more than $100 million in the current financial year.

The company was named supreme winner at the New Zealand International Business Awards last year and is making noises about listing on the New Zealand stock exchange in the near future.

While the digitisation of medical records was under way in many countries, with varying levels of success, McCrae said Orion stood to gain from the storage, transmission and accessibility of those files.

With genome files running to about 4 gigabytes in size and mobile medical devices potentially transmitting data 24 hours a day, "we're talking about a lot of data", McCrae said.

To meet the demand for IT services in the sector McCrae was keen to see information science taught in secondary schools alongside other sciences.

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He said there was clearly demand for skills in the IT industry and the sector held the biggest potential commercial benefit for New Zealand's economy.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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