It seems there was a very lively and information rich Health IT conference in Vienna last week.
The official web site for the conference is located here.
Among the reports that very interesting were the following:
World Health Organization official calls for public health IT investments
By Jack Beaudoin, Editorial Director 10/25/07
VIENNA, AUSTRIA - Healthcare information technology can minimize, not widen, the gap between have and have-nots, said Hussein Gezairy, the World Health Organization director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, at the World of Health IT conference on Wednesday.
That's not to say the status quo of technology distribution can be maintained. In his keynote address, Gezairy said that if public officials work to make technology more widely available - reducing, in effect, the ratio of haves to have-nots - the benefits of healthcare IT will be spread more broadly across the world's population.
"We have to work on this," he said. "Maybe it is time to declare how essential ICT is to health, in the same way WHO declared certain medicines essential."
That's an almost revolutionary idea in public health, where many have maintained that the costs of new computing could reduce the amount of money spent on relatively inexpensive lifesaving medicines. "This argument is not valid at all," Gezairy maintained, later pointing out that the prices of vaccines have dropped precipitously the more they were used, and the same could be true of technology.
Gezairy was quick to point out that many challenges remain to successful ICT uses. These include:
- Lack of national e-health policies, strategies, plans and legislative frameworks
- Use of systems is limited to nurses and clerks, not used by many physicians
- Cost of computer systems compared with cost of medicines is still prohibitive for many countries and institutions
- Use of ICT for public health is limited at present
- Many populations live in rural and remote areas with little or no access to specialized health care
- E-health projects, especially telemedicine, are initiated and managed by non-health authorities.
Throughout his speech, Gezairy reiterated the need to include physicians in healthcare IT planning and deployments.
For the full article continue reading here:
I must say the list of challenges reads like a useful hit list of things that need to be addressed.
Also reported was a talk from the US Health and Human Services Secretary.
26 Oct 2007
Accreditation of vendor applications, based on core interoperability standards, is helping to spur adoption of ICT within the United States of America healthcare system.
Initial results suggest the accreditation of electronic patient record systems is leading to financial incentives for their adoption, and helping drive spread of key functionality such as order communications.
Speaking at World of Healthcare IT in Vienna, Dr Mark Leavitt described the approach and progress of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), the federally-funded organisation he chairs.
“Every time I travel I feel bad that America is so far behind,” Dr Leavitt told the largely European audience in Vienna. “The level of health IT funding in US is miniscule in comparison to overall health funding. In the US government does not buy health IT systems.”
Instead, he said that the government is trying “to do a few things and catalyse adoption of health IT”. One of them being to accredit vendor systems to a core set of requirements that healthcare funders and providers can have confidence in.
“Our mission is simply to accelerate the adoption of health ICT – make sure the technology is interoperable and robust,” said Dr Leavitt.
Founded by organisations including HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) and the American Healthcare Information Management Association (AHIMA), CCHIT won a £7.5m contract from the Federal government in October 2005. Initial certification work focused on ambulatory electronic patient record (EPR) systems, with work now underway on inpatient EPRs.
Continue reading the long and interesting article here:
I have a feeling Dr Leavitt might just be being a little hard on himself. While the US does not have a grand strategy involving the expenditure of billions of dollars there does seem to be genuine progress being made in many key areas. I suspect we will see the payoff of all the basic Standards work and so on over the next few years. Time will tell.
Lastly we had the following report of talks by Richards (Granger and Alvarez) from the UK and Canada.
By Jack Beaudoin, Editorial Director 10/25/07
VIENNA, Austria - Digitalization of health services in three countries -- England, Canada and the United States -- is progressing and gains are being made, according to officials who spoke at Thursday's World of Health IT conference closing keynote address.
But the two countries that have notched the most progress say the advances have come in spite of vendors and suppliers who are still dragging their heels on interoperability.
"Vendors!" said Richard Granger, who has already announced plans to wind down his role overseeing the English National Health System by the end of the year. "You can't do these projects without them, but many of the products proffered can't do the job."
He complained that, "Vendors go to the ministers and tell them what's possible, and then leave it to me to deal with the realities."
Empty claims of interoperability
Similar sentiments were echoed by Canada Health Infoway chief Richard Alvarez, who said that despite interoperability claims, suppliers are failing to deliver functional compatibility with other systems.
"Vendors continue to say they can do it – but they can't," Alvarez noted. "We don't have a single vendor" that is truly interoperable.
When a conference attendee from Philips said that PACS vendors using DICOM standards provided an exception to such generalizations, Granger dismissed the point out of hand, noting that Fuji Photo Film (UK) Limited had previously challenged the NHS’ interoperability requirements in court and lost.
PACS among successes
He then urged existing PACS suppliers to the NHS to "get their asses into gear" and implement HL7 version 3 standards as required by the programme.
Despite that attitude, Granger said the PACS component of the NHS' initiative has been one of the more successful elements to date because it has been the least disruptive for clinicians.
"If I had to do it again, this is where I would probably start," Granger said.
He said that on or about Dec. 10, the last wet-film radiology system in the country would be decommissioned, giving way to a new PACS. "In about three years, we will have achieved digitization of that particular analog technology," he said -- noting that it will occur almost on the 100th anniversary of the introduction of film radiology in Great Britain.
Continue reading at the URL below:
They must have been a great double act – and amused those listening with their frustrations with the commercial Health IT vendors.
As in all things I am sure there is an element of truth in what they say – but equally there are some Governments (and their senior bureaucrats) whose expectations of what can be done in what time frame for how much can be a little un-realistic.
All in all sounds like a fun (and useful) time was has by all!