PodcastsJuly 22, 2016

Podcast: Business Is Boring #12 – Ian McCrae, Orion Health CEO, on what to do if you’ve got an old billboard lying around


‘Business is Boring’ is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and text.

Orion Health is one of the big names in NZ tech, with 1250 staff, operations around the world and a huge role in fostering the tech scene here. It was so pioneering it was actually one of the first companies here to use the internet (!), one of our first tech exporters and is only now really getting started on what it set out to do in the first place – personalise healthcare and use information to help patients get the best care they can. It’s an exciting time for Ian McCrae, the CEO and founder.

What does it take to get to here? What can we do to make more Orions in NZ? What is up with their billboards you might have seen on Khyber Pass in Auckland, ones that have pictures of goats and lines like ‘we need more RAM not RAMS!’

All these and many more questions are in this handy podcast.

Either download or have a listen below, subscribe through iTunes or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

The way that your company is now set up with it’s goal of kind of helping to personalise healthcare for every person, that’s now starting to be something that technology and people’s contectedness to their own information is allowing to make happen. So what’s next for you guys? How do you ride that next wave and help make that happen?

We are going to fundamentally change health globally. And what I mean there is that today we hold the medical records for 100 million patients with another ten or twenty coming into our systems as we speak and what we are going to be able to do is tie together not only your clinical record but your genomic data. People will be starting to be able to measure the bugs in their bodies, their microbiome which has a big impact on your health. Devices are producing a whole lot of data there’s all sorts of other things, your metabolome, lots of other data is going to become available.

Also it matters where you live you know whether you exercise, the food you eat, all these things have a big big part to play in your health. So health is going to become a data science. In five years time, ten years time, I want to be able to go to my doctor and my medical record is joined together, it’s available in the cloud to the doctor and to me. If I go to a specialist, the specialist can immediately see my full medical record, they can see the things that are outstanding, the things I need to do, they can see my propensity for certain conditions.

That’s going to be health care of the future, the tri-corder of the future is your mobile phone which will link to your medical record in the cloud and to the devices that might be lying around, so health is going to fundamentally change. So we want to lead the change, we have a chance to lead the change because New Zealand’s unique position of having a couple of decades of medical records that are fully computerised. You can’t do this stuff without some initial data to work with and that’s what we have here in New Zealand and it’s unique.

And how is the health department here? Because you said that in the early days that had kicked you off, the fact that we had a forward looking health department that would take these punts, are you able to work, is it like New Zealand is a test case for the rest of the world and you can say let’s roll this out to everyone?

New Zealand can definitely be a test case. Actually, just thinking back to when we first got into this area, to learn all about this stuff, I used to have to make midnight phone calls to the UK and I remember submitting my toll bill to the Ministry of Health and they were very upset by these thousands of dollars for toll calls. So I had to document every single toll call and what it was about; this is how far we have moved in our time in business. And business has got much, much easier.

Because of some good decision making by previous governments, we have reformed our health system many times. The health system is now, certainly primary care, is now fully automated, it puts us in an excellent position to lead, what i think, is an inevitable transformation in healthcare. We can lead that change. In fact it’s not only Orion, it’s the other vendors in the sector as well, so an ecosystem has been created here with, it’s all the New Zealand vendors, about 35 organisations that are pulling together, and working towards what they call precision medicine, or precise health. So the health care that every patient gets should be unique to them because every patient is unique.

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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