Prescription for e-health

In a healthcare system that has its share of sickness, one sector that is approaching tip-top condition is e-health.

In Europe, CSC worked with the Dutch Ministry of Health to create a secure system that lets doctors share medical records without compromising the privacy of patients. The system pulls together records from multiple healthcare providers, but it doesn’t store patient histories and the doctor’s system can’t store the records.

“They haven’t tried to create a central database,” says Pettigrew. “The data is pulled in and rendered, stored temporarily, then removed. It’s an opt-out model with transparent audit trails, so you can see who has accessed your records. I think that is critical of any e-health system regardless of privacy legislation.”

The focus these days is to understand what has worked in a country and what hasn’t, says Fujitsu’s Smoot.

“I don’t think you can copy one model, drop it into another country and expect it to work. It’s around questions like — What are the policy issues? What will it take to get all the key stakeholders on board? What are the procurement processes? What would they do differently? How did they get people involved in implementation? What can we learn from the positives and negatives that have come out of some of the other countries?”

Opportunity knocks

The good news is IT people with skills in the fundamentals are not only well positioned, but will become highly sought after, particularly in areas such as collaboration, dashboards and mobility. Customer relationship management also has an important role to play, as health organisations begin to add CRM overlays to their record information to gain a case management view.

The key, says Denbo, is not to put e-health in the too hard basket. The “low hanging fruit”, such as making it easier to find information through patient and clinician portals and looking at efficiency through collaboration models, is where the opportunities lie, particularly as government strategies begin to focus on citizen-centric delivery.

“There is a dire shortage of people with skills in healthcare because most of the other industries have tended to pay more for those skills than health,” says Denbo. “It’s a brilliant time to be working in health. It is an industry undergoing transformation, with e-health a fundamental component of that transformation. And at the end of the day we are all consumers of a broken system — I would rather be working on fixing the system for ourselves.”

This article originally appeared in Computerworld Australia's August/September print edition. To subscribe please email Computerworld or go to our subscription page. You can also follow @computerworldau on Twitter and let us know.

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