Erik Gerritsen, vice minister of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport in the Netherlands, had a simple message for delegates on the second day of the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European conference in Helsinki this evening: there is an urgent need to address the “global interoperability crisis” facing healthcare.
Governments need to step up, Gerritsen said, and move away from the approach adopted in the past, where the health IT industry was left alone to try and “fix” the interoperability challenge. “What I see is a global market failure in achieving meaningful interoperability.
“What I see now is that, with all our technological advancements, people are still dying because we are not able to get the right electronic information in the right place at the right time,” he said. “And I see hospitals being forced to select a specific EHR system because their data is locked into their vendor’s closed ecosystem.
“I see nurses and doctors burning out and leaving healthcare behind because the technology doesn’t work for, but against them,” he added. “I see desperate patients starting lawsuits to be able to get their own medical data because healthcare organisations are not willing or not able to provide their data to them.”
His comments echoed the remarks of patient advocates at the event, as well as governmental figures from other European countries calling on all stakeholders to work together and ensure healthcare does not, as Gerritsen put it, continue to miss out on the “digital revolution”, with fax machines and paper still common in many organisations – and “extinct everywhere but healthcare”.
Empowered citizens and healthcare professionals
The problem, however, is not the lack of having a vision in place or the lack of usable technology; it’s implementing and scaling good solutions, Gerritsen said.
The vice minister emphasised that health innovation needed to be “accelerated” to ensure that the right care is delivered at the right time. For this to happen, there is a need for empowered citizens, with access to the tools needed to be in control of their own health, and empowered healthcare professionals.
The vice minister acknowledged, however, that government is often seen as “the opposite of inspiration, slowing down innovation with needless red tape and bureauracy”. But he added: “As governments, we have a responsibility to serve the interests of all our citizens, to ensure that everyone is able to participate in today’s society, no matter their background.
“People don’t do whatever you say, but they will follow what they see you do.”
Norway health tech CEO receives achievement award
The evening keynote also saw Kathrine Myhre, chief executive of Norway Health Tech, receive the HIMSS Future 50 European Achievement Award. Myhre is the founder of Norway Health Tech, previously known as the Oslo Medtech Cluster, which brings together over 200 members from the digital health industry, providers, local authorities, R&D organisations and investors.
“To ensure the growth of digital health into its full potential, we need leaders who can constantly push to improve the quality in treatment and care by developing and industrialising world-class health solutions through members and ecosystems,” said Sean Roberts, HIMSS EMEA Vice President. “Kathrine Myhre is one such thought leader and a role model.”
HIMSS launches nursing informatics community
HIMSS, owner of Healthcare IT News, also launched today its European Nursing Informatics Community, in collaboration with the Finnish Nurses Association, the International Council of Nurses and the European Health Management Association.
“Throughout our ongoing engagement with healthcare providers and the broader European community membership, we have recognised that nurses are the closest to the gaps in care representing the human link between technology and patients,” said Angela Velkova, HIMSS director of communities and strategic relations. “Therefore, digitally empowered nurses will directly translate in improved delivery of care to the benefit of citizens and entire communities.”
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