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Orion Health’s three-pillar strategy for unified healthcare through a digital front door

30 May 2023
By Kate McDonald

After several tough years following its delisting from the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges, global digital health software vendor Orion Health has developed a new strategy for growth, focusing on three of its key strengths in the digital health space.

These are the emerging concept of the healthcare digital front door, its large market in digital care records and health information exchanges, and its long-term strength in health data intelligence, which has recently been rebranded as the Orchestral health intelligence platform. Combined these make the three pillars of Orion Health’s unified healthcare strategy.

Officially launched at the HIMSS exhibition in Chicago last month, Orchestral is being touted by Orion Health as “the biggest step forward in health data since the advent of integration engines some 20 years ago”, claiming it will unlock the power of data to inform better healthcare decisions.

Orchestral – which uses Orion Health’s familiar musical themes, which in the past has included its clinical record platform Concerto and its former integration engine Rhapsody – is described as the world’s first out-of-the-box, health-specific data platform which can be cloud or on premise hosted.

Features include built-in machine learning, natural language processing, data de-identification, a terminology service, patient indexing, data integration, and data analytics capabilities. Orion Health says it can ingest and store every type of data related to individual patients and healthcare providers, including structured and unstructured data from HL7 and FHIR standards, social determinants of health, genomics, environmental and behavioural health.

Artificial intelligence is “baked into” Orchestral, the company says, allowing for out-of-the-box machine learning, natural language processing and algorithm management, and for simple viewing of data and the ability to integrate into other applications.

Orchestral was launched by the company’s new CEO, Brad Porter, who began in the role in August last year following the retirement of founder Ian McCrae. Mr McCrae remains an executive director with a focus on products.

(As part of the new structure at Orion Health, former Southern Cross Healthcare director of nursing Carey Campbell has joined as clinical director for ANZ, and Niru Rajakumar has been promoted to vice president of Orion Health APAC. Tarkan Shahho has been promoted to technical director and a customer success manager has also been appointed, with Paris Majot moving across from Dedalus.)

Mr Porter said Orchestral would alleviate the need for healthcare organisations to cobble together multiple point solutions and components from different vendors. These point solutions and components will ultimately be rendered obsolete, he said, with Orchestral providing a hub for all data, applications and services in a health system.

“Orchestral is the culmination of 30 years of Orion Health working with healthcare data and interoperability, handling hundreds of millions of patients records and on the journey to provide a truly intelligent health data platform for the future,” Mr Porter said in a statement released at the launch.

“So many healthcare systems around the world are sitting on data, but they have no idea what they’ve got or how to analyse it. By aggregating all of a patient’s data, and storing it in a way that is accessible for AI, we’ve revolutionised how healthcare organisations can view their data, identify gaps in care and target resources more efficiently.”

Three pillars

The Orchestral offering forms one of the three pillars of Orion Health’s strategy, although the company remains well known for its digital care record platform that is used around the world, including in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. Its technology also forms the basis of health information exchanges (HIEs) throughout the US and the Middle East, and some of its clinical systems are also used in hospitals in France, Spain and South-East Asia.

In New Zealand, the digital care record technology, better known as the Clinical Workstation, is used throughout the country, including the Northern, Midlands and Central regions in the North Island and throughout the South Island, as well as by private hospital provider Southern Cross Healthcare.

In Australia, Orion’s technology is used by NSW Hunter New England LHD – although this is going to be replaced by the statewide Epic solution that NSW Health has settled on. The digital care record is used as a breast screening solution by the Cancer Institute NSW, ACT Health, and the Tasmanian Department of Health. Other clients include Northeast Health Wangaratta in Victoria and in NSW, Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network for its DCR “JHeHS”, and eHealth NSW’s HealtheNet system.

While the company continues to offer the digital care record and is eyeing off some of the remaining parts of the country that are still on paper, as well as the private hospital EMR market, it is also concentrating on its new digital front door strategy. This has been developed in Canada, where it is used for a province population of 15 million people and is also live in New Zealand, where Southern Cross Healthcare has piloted an eAdmissions solution, using Orion Health’s digital front door technology.

Australian strategy

Orion Health’s director of digital health in Australia, Stephen Stoyan, sees the Australian market as ripe for a digital front door offering. Orion Health describes the digital front door as an omni-channel consumer engagement platform that integrates data, tools and services for end-to-end healthcare navigation and management.

Mr Stoyan describes it as one portal through which healthcare consumers can digitally access the healthcare system.

“It’s a portal but it’s defined by workflow and authoritative information,” he said. “If we take NSW, if they were to build a digital front door, leveraging Orion Health, it would be using all the approved content from NSW Health and even potentially localised down to the local health district to make sure that any policy, regulation, care plan is all approved, to stop the consumer from going to Dr. Google or WebMD.

“What we are doing in Canada for 15 million people is basically everything from symptom checking to nurse triage to identifying wait times in the closest emergency department, within their region, all that is done through this one portal.”

The Canadian project involves a consortium of technology suppliers led by Orion Health with the aim to provide increased access to care and navigation services, including the province’s health contact centre and nurse services, as well as a unified location for navigation, advice, assessment, triage and referrals and an aggressive roadmap for adding access to personal health information for residents.

The plan is to bring the concept to Australia, where the digital front door movement is taking off. SA Health, for example, has named a digital front door as a key strategic project for its digital future, with Central Adelaide LHN planning to pioneer it for the state.

Mr Stoyan says Orion Health is in early conversations with Healthdirect for its national and state-based services, and is also talking to clients such as the Cancer Institute NSW on how they can drive a better patient experience.

For Cancer Institute, Orion Health has built a public web module (PWM) for the Breastscreen NSW service that provides an intuitive web interface where consumers are guided to relevant breast screening program materials, can verify their eligibility for screening, and can view, book, change and cancel screening appointments. It is currently in the process of modernising the PWM offering to Digital Front Door with a target release date of early 2024.

“By having a web app that’s got a responsive design means you can use it on tablet or mobile phone, means that we should be able to drive better participation, better engagement, send them reminders, and make sure that the experience is much better than what it has been,” Mr Stoyan said.

“The focus for digital front door can be at a hospital level, can be a local health district, or even state/territory wide, or national. There are no boundaries.”

Orion Health still sees opportunities in the digital care record or EMR market in Australia, but Mr Stoyan sees more opportunity at a population level, in how to link EMRs out to the community care and to mental health and drug and alcohol services, in a market that is increasingly seeing healthcare delivered in the community.

Funding in the recent federal budget also showed there was a big opportunity for organisations like Orion Health to assist with initiatives like the national health information exchange, national lung screening program and also to support the modernisation of My Health Record.

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