Healthcare IT News sat down with Todd Haebich, Executive Vice President for Asia-Pacific of Altera Digital Health, to discuss pressing industry challenges and how these can be tackled through collaboration, leveraging data, and enabling interoperability.
We also caught up with him on developments in the organisation following its recent acquisition by N. Harris Computer Corporation.
Q: Altera Digital Health, formerly known as Allscripts, was acquired just over a year ago. Can you explain what has transpired?
A: It has certainly been an exciting time! In May last year, N. Harris Computer Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Constellation Software Inc (CSI), completed the purchase of Allscripts Healthcare Solutions’ Hospitals and Large Physician Practices business segment. It now operates as Altera Digital Health, a business unit of Harris Healthcare.
Harris Healthcare is part of CSI, a publicly traded entity which has a $57 billion market cap. CSI has had a CAGR of 37.4% over the last 17 years which is a good metric for how a stock performs. To put it in perspective, we had a better CAGR than Apple, Amazon, Google, etc. so it’s a very high-performing business from a publicly traded entity perspective.
Q: Altera is very active in APAC. Can you highlight your presence in the region?
A: Altera has a strong presence in APAC and has been on a strong growth curve for the past ten years. In Southeast Asia, we are active in Singapore, the Philippines, and Guam. Our relationship with SingHealth goes back some 20 years. We have a pioneering presence in Australia where we are supporting SA Health to roll out what is arguably the most ambitious project of its kind in Australia, and in the Gippsland region, we have delivered an innovative region-wide cloud-based solution – just to name two exciting initiatives. We have clients in more than 100 hospitals across Australia that use either Sunrise, Altera Opal, or other platforms. We also recently won our first client in New Zealand.
Q: What is Altera Digital Health’s approach to its clients and the industry as a Harris company?
A: Our goal is to produce tech solutions that are agile and fit-for-purpose, and that our clients can use to drive a higher quality of care and better patient outcomes.
We have a relentless focus on our success which we achieve through empowering success for our clients. We know that this is a long process and that it happens one step at a time. This is the nature of our complex industry and what we do.
That is why our logo features a mountain range because mountains are conquered one step at a time. Our focus is to be better today than we were yesterday. If you make positive progress every day, you’ll continue to incrementally improve.
Q: How has Harris influenced the way Altera delivers value to its clients?
A: Being part of a much larger, diverse organisation with technology at its heart enables you to think about technology as a proactive intervention. We have the opportunity to ask ourselves where technology will be in five years’ time, for example.
If you go back only five years ago, nobody thought telehealth, remote health monitoring or ‘home hospitalisation’ were going to be as important as they are today, but here we are! So we ask ourselves: What else is going to happen?
In the immediate term, it’s all about how we help clinicians have as much information at the right place and at the right time to help them make the right decision. We believe that containerised infrastructure is the right approach for an EMR. Interoperability is of utmost importance if patient outcomes are our number one priority.
To use an analogy, an EMR should be like the electrical system in your house. If you want to plug in a coffeemaker, you can plug in a coffeemaker. If you want to plug in a toaster, you plug in a toaster. If you were to find a better coffeemaker, you don’t have to change the electrical system. You just plug it in.
The same applies to an EMR. Why would clinicians want to use an average ophthalmology product, for example, if a really good business had created a specialised, cutting-edge product for ophthalmologists? If we want to help clinicians offer patients the best care possible, we need to give them access to the best tech. That’s where technology is going and it is where healthcare is going.
Q: How important is data in today’s healthcare IT industry?
A: Everyone wants more access to data because it allows us to make better decisions. This is obviously of primary importance in healthcare.
We are all aware of AI and machine learning, but these are just tools that rely on good quality data. It’s the data that matters if you use AI and if you don’t have great data, the answers you get from AI are flawed.
So for us, the long-term vision, because we understand where healthcare is headed, is to enable the availability of better data, create better access to data, and have more patients owning data. Inextricably linked to this is that our EMRs need to be interoperable if we want clinicians to have the best tools to get the best data to make the best decisions.
Unlike a lot of vendors in this space, we genuinely want to rethink how things are done. We don’t tell clients that they have to use all our products—and only our products. It’s about being better at sharing data and helping clinicians provide the best possible care. If the patient was your mother and she had glaucoma, wouldn’t anyone want her clinician to have the best ophthalmology solution technology available?
Q: What are the typical pain points in the industry? What keeps CEOs and CIOs up at night?
A: Whether it’s a public or private hospital, the challenges facing leadership are largely the same. The ultimate goal is to offer the highest quality healthcare, but this requires operational and administrative excellence. Some of the key challenges are around capacity management, where hospitals are under increasing pressure to manage patient influx, bed occupancy, and wait time for treatments and surgeries. There is also the challenge of balancing the quality of patient care against the backdrop of shrinking budgets and rising operational costs. From a technology perspective, healthcare leaders are focused on technology integration and interoperability so that they can offer the best available services to patients. Equitable access to healthcare services is also a challenge, especially in large, diverse nations such as those that exist in the APAC region.
Altera develops solutions that directly target the identified pain points, aiming for practical and effective resolutions. It’s also about educating and training clients about the solutions while also enabling effective implementation and utilisation.
Q: If you had a magic wand and you could wave it and change one thing in healthcare IT, what would it be?
A: It would be the way healthcare IT vendors talk about healthcare IT. I don’t believe in the concept of “digital revolution”. I think it’s an evolution and there is a difference. It’s this idea that we want to continue to do a little bit more and a little bit better for the client and have a little bit more and a little bit better understanding of where the client is going.
To reiterate a previous point: It’s a climb and that’s why we chose Altera as the name of the business and the mountain range logo. It’s this idea that we’re steadily climbing towards a new summit of what healthcare technology can and should be. That’s what we’re trying to do. Well, you don’t climb Mount Everest in a day, right? It’s a process.
Let us help you take your digitalisation to new heights. Visit us at HIMSS23 APAC Health Conference & Exhibition, booths 513 & 514, on 18-21 September 2023 in Jakarta. Pre-book a meeting with us here.