In September 2015, a leading provider of optimised and integrated eHealth solutions, Health System Technologies (HST), travelled across the country to discuss the global trend of eHealth interoperability, its impact on South Africa and the rest of the continent.

HST’s annual national roadshow initially kicked off in 2012 as a platform for South African healthcare players to discuss and collaborate on eHealth initiatives. Over the past three years, HST has used the seminars to share the experience gained over the last 15 years from their eHealth implementations and involvement in South African and international projects, technologies and with local and global partners.

“SA is in a position to exploit the head start we have in using ICT to strengthen healthcare systems because of the lessons already learnt around the world,” said Business Development Manager at HST, Leon Wolmarans, during the opening of the Cape Town breakfast seminar.

Physician Executive at InterSystems, Dr Eugene “Gene” Elliott, was the keynote speaker and based her talk on the Harvard Business Review article by Michael Porter and Thomas H Lee which was published in October 2013. She presented it in the context of creating a value-based healthcare system and how eHealth can be used to support a new model of patient centred care in service delivery.

“The strategic agenda for moving to a high-value healthcare delivery system has six components: to organise into integrated practice units; measure outcomes and cost for every patient; move to bundled payments for care cycles; integrate care delivery systems; expand geographic reach; and build an integrated information technology platform. The components are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and progress will be greatest if multiple components are advanced simultaneously,” said Dr Elliott.

She added that there are six elements in building an Integrated-IT platform: it is patient (citizen) centred; it uses common data definitions; it encompasses all types of patient data; the medical record is accessible to all parties involved in care; the system includes templates and expert systems for each medical condition; and system architecture enables easy extraction of information.

Dr Elliott went on to talk about NHI and how it’s an opportunity to “move towards the high value healthcare proposition. To maximise the benefit, NHI requires robust interoperable eHealth solutions that connect to a central system, supporting standardised care and must be able to measure outcomes and cost,”  Dr Elliott added.

The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) was identified as an eHealth success story for government, InterSystems and HST and proof that a national eHealth platform is possible. The NHLS provides laboratory services to approximately 400 hospitals, 4,000 clinics and the 44 million citizens serviced by the public sector across South Africa.  In the near future, the last sites will be live and then the whole country will be on a single integrated platform.

Dr Elliott referred to the 10 national eHealth priorities laid out in the eHealth Strategy document and noted that lack of investment is keeping the industry back. “SA needs a new approach and understanding of the benefits to investing in IT and interoperability,” said Dr Elliott. She went on to explain that interoperability allows healthcare providers to leverage existing investments and technology; eliminate silos; contain costs; provide clinical benefit; facilitate management and statutory reporting; and mitigate risk.

“To enable interoperability in SA we need a medium and long term plan with a supporting budget; and the unique identifier for each individual in place urgently to begin to realise the clinical benefit that we can and need to achieve,” concluded Dr Elliott.

The full PDF presentation that was used in the seminars can be downloaded here.

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