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Looking beyond ‘data’ for eHealth interoperability

1 Sep 2014, by Informa Insights

eHealth, as defined by WHO, is the transfer of health resources and health care by electronic means.

Australia’s eHealth strategy, outlined initially in 2008, adopted an incremental and staged approach to developing eHealth capabilities to:

  • leverage what currently exists in the Australian E-Health landscape;
  • manage the underlying variation in capacity across the health sector and states and territories; and
  • allow scope for change as lessons are learned and technology is developed further.

Six years on and there have been a notable number of advancements and implementations, perhaps most notably in the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record. Yet the goal of interoperability in eHealth is one that remains a crucial mountain to climb, and will be critical to realising true patient-centred healthcare.

Dr George Margelis
Dr George Margelis

Dr George Margelis, Adjunct Associate Professor, TeleHealth Research & Innovation at the University of  Western Sydney spoke to us recently about eHealth interoperability within Australia. George has worked in healthcare for over 20 years. He was introduced to IT whilst studying Medicine at University, and has been involved in numerous hospital and community eHealth projects, all of which have had to connect systems and participants.

Interestingly, in his own blog, George states that,

“An enviable goal for eHealth and the healthcare system in general is the Triple Aim of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement. To improve the patient experience of care, including quality and satisfaction, improve the health of populations, and reduce the per capita cost of health care.”

So what role does interoperability play within this?

Whilst it has been subject to a myriad of definitions, George is of the opinion that:

“Interoperability means much more than just making sure data can be transferred from one system to another. Interoperability requires that the flow of information facilitates better workflow and outcomes.”

Hence, the delivery of healthcare is above and beyond the transfer of data (whilst this is critically important) , but also involves “some very advanced decision making involving anatomy, physiology, pathology, psychology, sociology and even a bit of economics.”

That healthcare encompasses deeply personal communications with widespread challenges that affect everyone is something which may need to be more captured more effectively within Australia’s eHealth strategy. If achieved, George is of the opinion that it has the potential to be transformative (as opposed to reformative).

It is because of this complexity, and because of healthcare encompassing deeply personal communications, that George feels that no other sector has the potential for problems that healthcare has.  Looking elsewhere for lessons around effective interoperable practices is therefore a challenge in itself.

George will be presenting at the 2nd Annual eHealth Interoperability conference to expand on these ideas, and is looking forward to for the chance to introducing the personal connected health technology world to mainstream Australian healthcare with the following presentation:

Is Personal Connected Health the Answer to Interoperability?

  • Healthcare is becoming more connected and personal, so in the 21st Century is the best solution to interoperability to put the onus on the consumer to connect their own healthcare?
  • Review of the current personal connected health landscape
  • Look at what the future in personal connected health looks like
  • What needs to change to enable an interoperable personally connected health system?

For more information about the details event program and to register, please visit the eHealth Interoperability Conference website.

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