Giving Health an ICT e-dge

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eHealth Asia 2007 conference was aimed to provide a platform to discuss the recent trends and emerging issues in the development of information and communication technology and its integration in the healthcare systems

In the last few years, e-Health has emerged as a tool for substantial productivity gains and restructured, citizen-centric health care. Thus it was no wonder that e-Health Asia 2007, which was one of the five main tracks of the eAsia 2007 event, organised by Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS), at Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC), Putrajaya, Malaysia during 6-8 February 2007, garnered considerable attraction among a cross-section of e-Health experts, medical professionals and academics. The conference sought to provide a platform to discuss the recent trends and emerging issues in the development of information and communication science and technology and its integration in the healthcare systems.

Following the grand inaugural session of 6 February 2007, the sessions with interesting presentations and discussions commenced on February 7. The first session of e-Health track was on ‘ICT Integration in National Health Policy.’ The session was chaired by Prof. Yun Sik Kwak from ISO T/C 215 Health Informatics Standard, Korea. In this session, Gabe Rijpma, Director of Government Solutions, Microsoft Corporation, Asia Pacific, highlighted three main themes: paradigm shift in healthcare, improving productivity in healthcare and scaling health to overcome biggest challenges. He described ICT as ‘enabler’, not as the ‘only answer’. He emphasized on innovative ways of scaling health service delivery, which can be supported by technology. He also stressed that ICT integration in national health policy needs to be supported in the budgetary process so as to deliver results.

Frank Lievens, Board Member, International Society for Telemedicine and e-Health, Belgium, shared his views on international initiatives, structure and trends in the e-Health policy aspect. He narrated the challenges associated with health and suggested probable means to meet those challenges. In this context, he explained the significance of the concept of ‘e-Health’. During the question-answer session, the following recommendations were made: (i) It is essential to consider the people’s concern while implementing ICT for health services, (ii) key challenges and issues need to be focussed with cross-cultural perspectives.

The second session was on ‘Health Informatics Standards’, which was chaired by Dr. Basheerhamad Shadrach, IDRC, programme, India. In this session, Dr. S. Selvaraju from Ministry of Health, Government of Malaysia, discussed about the health infrastructure in Malaysia and emphasized on the standardisation of medical terminologies.  Prof. Yun Sik Kwak pointed out the importance of global standards as a key to interoperable e-Health systems for continuity of care and disease surveillance. He also highlighted the activities of e-Health Standardisation Coordination Group (eHSCG), that targets to promote stronger co-operation amongst the key players in the e-Health standardisation area. Bruno von Niman, TC Human Factors, European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI), Sweden, discussed about user experience design guidelines for telecare services and narrated the activities of European Telecommunication Standards Institute. Qurat-ul-Ain Salim Khan from National University of Science and Technology, Pakistan, described a step towards interoperability in ECG equipment. In her presentation, she focussed on the present ECG standard and the proposed ECG standard, emphasizing on implementation of a single standard, seamless integration with existing systems, recognised medical body and discouragement of proprietary standards. The recommendations in this session, based on the question-answer session at the end of the presentations, included developing a regional coordination sector for regional standardisation of health database. Building up standards for medical terminology and introducing telecare services in all the nations were also recommended.

The third session of the day was on ‘ICT Capacity Building for eHealth Implementation.’ The session was chaired by Frank Lievens, Board Member, International Society for Telemedicine and e-Health, Belgium. Dr. H.M.Goh, WG2, Asia Pacific Association of Medical Informatics (APAMI), Malaysia, discussed on ICT capacity building for e-Health implementation with reference to Malaysian e-Health journey. Dr. Dhrupad Mathur, Fellow and Alumni, Diplo Foundation, Geneva, presented a paper jointly written by Eva Tanner, Diplo Foundation, Switzerland and him. He explained the pilot project of Diplo Foundation, titled Health Diplomacy Research Course. The recommendations in this session, based on the question-answer session, were as follows: (i) As a major step for capacity building, ICT must be introduced in medical schools, (ii) list of courses linked to e-Health must be available to the citizens online, (iii) effectiveness of any training related to capacity building must be measured in a proper way.

The fourth and the last session of the day was on ‘e-Health Applications in Asia’, chaired by Dr. H.M.Goh. This session showcased the efforts in the Asia region in e-Health application. Dr. Azrin Zubir, CEO/Health Informatics Consultant, Meridian Project Management Sdn Bhd, focussed on ‘Electronic Health Record: Pre-requisite and Challenges,’ with special reference to Malaysia. Dr. Shashi Gogia from Indian Association for Medical Informatics (IAMI), India, highlighted on telemental health support after disasters, based on the post tsunami experience from India. He also narrated the activities of Society for Administration of Telemedicine and Healthcare Informatics (SATHI). The title of the paper, presented by Jay M. Bernhardt, Director, National Centre for Health Marketing, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, was ‘The Potential of E-PublicHealth: CDC’s Focus on the Future’. Santulan Chaubey, Manager-Information Technology, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Government of Delhi, described ‘Common EHCR Architecture for e-Health Applications in Asia’. The major recommendations in this session include the following: (i) Legal issues related to ICT use in the health sector need to be taken care of; (ii) Electronic health record needs to be maintained for the community care; (iii) Blog might be a useful way for communicating among people of e-Health community.

The first session of 8th February was entitled ‘Health IT Initiatives: Country Case Studies’. It was chaired by Dato’ Prof. Jai Mohan, FAMM Professor of Health Informatics & Pediatrics, International Medical University, who also presented his paper on the need of total health informatics system, with special mention on Malaysia’s health vision. Case studies on health IT initiatives were discussed by Dr. Molly Cheah, Open Source Health Care Alliance (OSHCA), Malaysia where she also described the mission, vision and initiatives of OSCHA. Jagjit Singh Bhatia, Director, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) Mohali, India, narrated the initiatives in implementing telemedicine technologies by C-DAC, Mohali and Dr. J.A.Davis from GP Assist, Australia, explained the role played by GP Assist in Australian healthcare sector. GP Assist provides after hours workforce relief to rural general practioners (GPs) throughout down under. The title of the paper by Dr. Penny O’Hara, Clinical Director, BT Health, UK was ‘e-Health in the UK

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