(HealthTech Wire / Interview) - The drive towards increasing collaboration in healthcare within and between organisations, and even across borders, requires a comprehensive digital communications infrastructure based on standards. Mr Hartmut Schaper, Senior Vice President Health Services International at Siemens Healthcare, explains how Siemens’ experience and capabilities can provide CIOs with this crucial foundation for the efficient operation of a healthcare organisation.
Many European countries are pushing towards more digital communications in their national healthcare systems. In your experience, what countries are heading the pack at the moment?
From our projects we’ve learned that Scandinavian countries have been establishing advanced digital communication structures for their healthcare systems. If we look at Denmark, the information they provide electronically on a national level for all citizens is remarkable; for instance, the national medication register, organ donor register, patients provision register and many more. Besides this, the Danish level of integration of treatment and care workflows across different healthcare provider groups — hospital, care homes, GPs — is leading-edge. Also, the intensive activity in Austria to develop an electronic health record for every Austrian citizen is very remarkable, just to give a few examples.
What do you consider the most interesting healthcare information exchange projects that Siemens has realized in Europe recently?
Again, in Denmark we are delivering an ehealth infrastructure based on IHE interoperability standards combined with a clinical multimedia archive for the whole Midt Region — one out of five regions in Denmark. What’s remarkable is that this communications infrastructure features the connectivity not just for the Midt Region but to other regions and to national databases based on IHE standards.
In Austria, we have set up several IHE-compliant networks for whole regions and for private hospital operators. For radiologists in private practice we offer IHE-compliant communications as well as long term archiving as a service.
Also in Germany we have hard-driving customers who, based on an electronic record, the so called eFallakte, collaborate over treatment with partners across their healthcare institutions.
The ehealth movement has always aimed at involving patients more closely in healthcare communications. Does this actually happen in Europe?
Yes, we can see that there is a move towards patient-centric healthcare. There are increasing numbers of projects aiming to set up patient portals, for example. In these solutions, patients will be able to access documents within their electronic health record regarding their medical history, such as discharge summaries or lab results, and independently see which hospital or which family doctor they have been to. Patients will also see a complete audit trail about what has happened with their medical information and who has accessed it; and they will be able to control access rights, or make appointments with healthcare providers online and receive reminders.
How intensely is Siemens engaged in pan-European ehealth projects and in European standardization efforts?
Co-operation between healthcare providers does not stop at borders of countries. Medical care is not only necessary in your home region, but also when you travel. If you go on holiday to Greece for example, wouldn’t it make sense if in case of a medical emergency the Greek doctors would have access to your personal emergency dataset? That’s what some pan-European projects focus on. One of them is called epSOS, which is funded by the EU and Siemens is a partner in this project.
Moreover, we have products, that already meet the necessary international standards for cross-border exchange of health-related data. Always when we see that co-operation and communication in healthcare is necessary, and interoperability is impossible due to missing standards, we contribute massively to European or also world-wide standardisation efforts, such as HL7 and IHE, to get those challenges solved. By taking part in IHE interoperability connectathons, to test our products in an open environment, we show our commitment towards these standards. We furthermore support the development of IHE-based record models and implementation guidelines, such as eFA 2.0 in Germany, the IHE cookbook, and a project founded by the state of North Rhine- Westphalia, the eBPG-Project.
What will be the IT big issues for hospital CIOs in Europe in the years to come?
Starting from the ehealth perspective, I would say firstly that patient care is becoming increasingly a collaborative process. Hospital information systems should be able to make patient data accessible for all involved parties. Therefore, HIS have to be extended by solutions or modules that support healthcare integration beyond the hospital and help improve cross-institutional sharing of patients’ treatment processes.
Secondly, we consider the intelligent handling of big data as one of the most challenging issues to come: the increasing amount of patient data needs to be appropriately managed and provided in order to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time — no matter which source it comes from. Even external information, such as surveys could be considered. This is what can help the clinicians make more informed decisions at the point of care. And this is how information can turn into knowledge.
Considering both aspects together, we are basically talking about a holistic approach to patient data management, which needs to be orchestrated by healthcare IT. At Siemens we are therefore bringing together archiving and health information exchange products. In combination they can benefit from each other and thus our customers can benefit from their interplay — for example, when a multimedia archive based on an IHE infrastructure is used to store and exchange patient data within a certain region.
Enabling access to necessary data everywhere anytime - based on strict security and privacy standards - does not only require an appropriate infrastructure but also the right tools. We believe that more and more mobile devices will support patient care.
Furthermore, I believe that the employment of workflow-driven software will increase. Aligning software’s opportunities and internal processes is a challenge for CIO’s and Siemens supports them by helping to find the adequate solution.
Another challenge the CIO is faced with is an increasing complexity of IT requirements. Managed Services can be the right answer. So a partner who has the specialist's know-how, the latest methods and technologies can disburden the IT department from expensive hardware investments and from time-consuming administrative tasks, thus enabling CIOs and their teams to focus on important strategic IT projects. No matter what issues hospital CIOs are dealing with, we give our best to accompany them as a trusted partner.
Mr Schaper, thank you very much for the interview. (HTW)
This interview is part of HIMSS Insights. © HIMSS Media c/o so2say communications
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