What is your take on the issue of interoperability in healthcare IT?
I believe there is still a lot of room for improvement for interoperability in healthcare. We still see issues in solutions that are not able to be integrated, which costs healthcare institutions a lot of money to fix and causes delays to the implementation of critical solutions.
What is currently being done (in terms of regulations and standards) to overcome this issue?
User groups have been formed around the region to look into this issue, but with so many vendors providing solutions to the healthcare market, it will take some time to see any change. The main driver for change would be the cost of customizing the solutions.
What is the interoperability scenario with respect to Asia?
In Asia, the problem with interoperability is the same as in North America and Europe. Healthcare institutions are still faced with the challenges of integrating solutions. Hospitals are currently spending a lot of money to fix issues as we see with the NHS project in the UK.
What, according to you, could be the panacea to health IT systems interoperability?
I think if key stakeholders in the healthcare market demand something to be done, then the interoperability issue will see a significant change. While we don’t see this happening in the next one to two years, there are already forums and user groups that come together to work out a common ground for all solutions to co-exist and operate in an eco-system.
How are vendors responding towards this trend?
The key challenge is cost. Vendors are taking steps to address this issue but it’s moving at a slow pace.
How is it affecting patient care?
As hospitals spend more money to fix the issues of interoperability, the cost is passed to the patients. We also see delays with patients being discharged from a hospital or for a patient to get his/her medical records. Once there is a seamless flow between all the solutions, we will see a significant time savings in patient care.
What could be the role of Internet in overcoming interoperability?
More industry players are starting to adopt web 2.0 in the healthcare industry. With Web 2.0 technology, the belief is that we will fix some of the issues that are creating the current bottle neck with healthcare applications.
Are the existing standards enough to support healthcare data exchange?
I think the current standards need to be reevaluated to take into account the current technology trends in the healthcare market. This is already being looked at and we hope to see some changes in the next 12 to 24 months.
Any other comments?
New technologies, powered by unified communications, are also now being implemented within healthcare, ensuring the right information is available at the right time, regardless of location. A range of wireless communications are in already in use, such as mobile PDAs or tablets that allow practitioners to make bedside care decisions more quickly. When equipped with mobile devices, they can connect with doctors or specialists at other locations for an immediate consultation or quickly access information from a facility’s digital files without losing valuable time running back to the central nursing station on the floor.
Doctors can also now share medical imaging files with distant colleagues for an immediate second opinion and can receive real-time alerts wherever they are, from the moment a patient’s condition worsens and needs attention.
For example, Kyushu University Hospital in Japan upgraded its current IT system to a new medical service infrastructure to enable information to be more efficiently stored, managed, retrieved and shared amongst physicians and medical staff. Built on the hospital’s vision to offer patient-oriented, one-stop medical services, the new clinical grade next-generation network provides anywhere, anytime, quick access to information such as diagnosis data, X-ray and ultrasound imaging - and real-time readings of patient vital signs and operating theater monitoring. Real-time access to this important information creates an environment for primary physicians, specialists and medical staff to collaborate more efficiently for remote consultations, diagnosis and patient care. The network from Nortel is an example of how technology can improve quality healthcare services and patients’ quality of life by simplifying the complexity for medical providers to access and share information.
Gerard Anthony Dass is Healthcare Solutions Leader for Nortel Asia. At Nortel, Gerard is responsible for driving sales and customer relationships within the healthcare industry in Asia. Prior to working at Nortel, Gerard was senior technology manager for Cerner Asia where he managed technology projects in Asia. Gerard received a Masters degree in Computer Science from Sheffield Hallam University and a PhD in Computer Forensics from the University of Melbourne.