In brief

In brief

  • Meet Robert Best, CEO of MIMS Australia and MIMS New Zealand covering the Pacific region.
  • He also serves as the president elect of the MSIA, the Medical Software Industry Association of Australia.
  • My top priority is to ensure that the medicines information we provide to the healthcare and clinical industry is of utmost accuracy and up to date.
  • The reality is we need to be careful about embracing technologies at legitimate speed, function and safety.


Accenture: Tell us about your role and responsibilities at MIMS and the Medical Software Industry of Australia (MSIA).

Robert Best: Located in our Sydney office, my corporate role is the CEO of MIMS Australia and MIMS New Zealand covering our Pacific region. We are the largest provider of drug and medicines information to the Australian healthcare Industry, dealing with hundreds of thousands of clinicians/healthcare professionals and integrating our medicines content with some +80 medical software vendor systems. The MIMS Group is a business with +700 staff across 14 countries covering ASEAN. I also sit on our Executive Committee, with our headquarters located in Singapore. We make decisions about where our business needs to be not just today, but into the future.

I'm also the CEO of eHealthwise, a MIMS subsidiary, which is an electronic e-billing and payment business that processes around AUD$1 billion a year in health claims value.

Aside from my corporate roles, and more from an industry point of view, I am currently the president elect of the MSIA, which is the Medical Software Industry Association of Australia. It is the peak industry body which represents all medical software vendors across the Australian healthcare industry, ranging from large hospital EMR systems, to pharmacy systems, GP primary care clinic software vendors, allied health vendors and smaller health tech start-ups that are coming into the healthcare system. Our role is to bridge the gap between government, industry, policy reform and digital transformation to drive more efficiency across digital health and better patient outcomes.

It was at an early age that I realised the importance of the pharmacist, drug and medication safety, medicines information and the important decisions people make around this data.

A: You obviously have a great deal of responsibility across the three organisations. How do you juggle those roles and what are your very top priorities?

RB: My top priority is to ensure that the medicines information we provide at MIMS to the healthcare and clinical industry is of utmost accuracy and up to date so that decisions made at the point of care, or other decisions around medicines, are made with the right information and safety. Those using our data can have an impact on a patients’ livelihood, so that is my absolute top priority.

MIMS has been a leader for more than 55 years in Australia, and as my father was a pharmacist, and my brother is a medical specialist, I've grown up with healthcare professionals in my family. In fact, when I was a young child, I grew up watching my father read the MIMS “Blue Book” on our coffee table. (Back then he would call it his trusted bible of medicines information before we entered the digital world.) So, it was at an early age that I realised the importance of the pharmacist, drug and medication safety, medicines information and the important decisions people make around this data.

A: You mention the MIMS book and clinicians in Australia call it the "blue book." How do you see digital technologies factoring into the work that you are doing, because one might guess a lot of people do not have the book anymore?

RB: Ah, believe it or not, the "Blue Book" is still a very popular product amongst a certain cohort of our customers, as some have been with us for 30 or 40 years! As most businesses do, we have evolved from publications. Technology for us has been something we've had to embrace.

We’ve taken a digital transformation journey across our technology platform/s, perhaps a little slower than people may have expected, or other companies may go through, in terms of their approach, but I think it's important that we get it right. We have so many customers and partners across the ASEAN region coming to us asking for not just a domestic solution for medicines information, but regional solutions. So, we needed to factor that in as most important, but we will take our time to ensure we get it right.

A: How do you keep abreast of changes with web, mobile and social and what are the challenges in terms of having the right user interface in the hands of the clinician?

RB: Well, it’s an interesting scenario for us, as we are viewed as a horizontal business within the healthcare industry. So what do I mean by that? There are many companies that provide services, technologies and platforms at a vertical level, i.e., specifically to a hospital, a primary care clinic, aged care facility, pharmacy or an allied health location. We are one of those few companies that operates as a horizontal level, as we touch all these (and more) health verticals and modalities across the entire industry.

Keeping on top of change is important and we do that quite well. As I mentioned, we integrate with approximately 80 different medical software applications/platforms, from examples covering prescribing to dispensing, or for those who use us simply as a reference tool, so we are used to the consumerisation of our services. This has allowed us to become accustomed to having those digital services and has driven our need to ensure we stay abreast of changes.

A: What can you predict will be the new technologies that we don't use now, but we will be using in 10 years?

RB: Being a company across the ASEAN region, we still see a lot of paper-based scenarios all the way through to companies wanting to embrace AI technologies, such as algorithms that will make better decisions for people at the point of care. Eventually, we are going to see things like voice and voice activation modules. I see further developments across voice technology to be next, but the reality is we need to be careful about embracing technologies at legitimate speed, function and safety.

What I mean is that Australia is at a different stage of its technology life cycle to countries like; Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia or Vietnam. These are all examples of countries that MIMS has a presence in, and where we interact with clinicians. It is therefore difficult to predict in terms of what will be the overarching technology platform that will span all of them because I think it will be a hybrid of a number of platforms that offer in country solutions given their different stage of life cycle.

A: In your opinion, how do digital challenges in healthcare differ from those in other industries?

RB: I think we would agree the tremendous value gained if a clinician was able to see the holistic view of their patient in real-time, so the learnings we can gain from an industry, such as the Airlines, are helpful. For instance, let’s look at how well the travel and tourism industry has adopted seamless integration and put the consumer at the centre—from booking an airline ticket to booking a hotel, a car, a tour, or in fact to booking anything at all. When information is fully integrated and seamless, we can truly look at a healthcare (digital health) future where we put the patient at the centre.

However, it's important that as an industry, we ensure that we don't fall into a situation where the race to the top leads to the potential for data breaches, privacy breaches or compromised patient records. We don’t want to give that up for the consumerism of healthcare.

A: How do you aim to understand which digital technologies will work best for clinicians?

RB: Firstly, through my role at the MSIA, I am fortunate to work alongside many different medical software vendors across all parts of the healthcare ecosystem, so I have visibility into what their business and technology development roadmaps look like into the future. From this exposure, I tend to see what works well for them and their intended users, and what are future user requirements and how clinicians will need to access patient related content.

Also, through the MSIA, we discuss and engage around what are going to be the trends and requirements for technology and transformation, and the use of that across social, web and other platforms. Lastly, we have a very strong and deep digital transformation team in-house at MIMS, that are working on a new, regional platform utilising best of breed technologies for healthcare users to embrace into the future.

A: How do you demonstrate to your stakeholders, shareholders, to your board, the value of technology investments?

RB: It's an interesting question because there are two sides to the equation: internal and external value. The external value is about driving efficiencies and driving utmost safety so that clinicians feel they have the right information at the right time to make the right decisions. The reality is most patients, if not all patients within certain cohorts, are taking one or more medication, and if incorrect decisions are made, there is a tangible human cost to the patient’s well-being and on the broader healthcare system around that decision. Intangible costs can spin out from there. It is about the patients’ health, their mental and physical health.

In terms of value driven by technology, we can demonstrate value by providing the right information at the right time. Part of a clinical workflow can drive value-based health outcomes. So internally, what does this mean? It means that we can show our shareholders and stakeholders that if we do develop new platforms and if we do crack the right solutions, the adoption levels will be there because of their intrinsic value.

I think safety is absolutely paramount because safety is at the heart of what we do in healthcare. It's about ensuring our medicines data is accurate, is up to date, and is of the best quality in terms of breath, depth and timeliness. To ensure this continues, we have to spend money on the right platforms, the right systems and the right personnel to ensure we deliver this content and achieve overall benefits to population health.

A: What do you like most about your job?

RB: There are several things I like about it. But I’ll narrow it down.

I deal with some amazing people within the healthcare industry and I also meet some fantastic companies that aim to truly make a difference to people’s lives.

Like I mentioned, I come from a family of healthcare professionals and I find that most people who work within our healthcare industry are very generous, caring, honest people. To be part of this ecosystem, and to be surrounded by those kinds of people, on both a personal and professional level, is a joy to be a part of in my day to day job.

Robert Best

CEO – MIMS Australia, MIMS New Zealand

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