Personalised healthcare: The information challenge
The concept of “personalised healthcare” can broadly be defined as products and services that leverage the science of genomics (or the identification of genes and how they relate to drug treatment) and make the most of the trends towards well-being. The concept’s objective is to enable customised approaches to prevention of illnesses and regular health care, and will play an important role in improving the safety, quality and effectiveness of healthcare for every one.
At GE we believe that healthcare IT (HCIT) will be the game changer for personalised healthcare – increasing consistency, advancing protocol-driven, evidence-based medicine and delivering knowledge and healthcare at the bedside. An HCIT infrastructure of comprehensive electronic health records, tied into patient-specific care, will improve healthcare productivity and reduce medical errors.
The potential gains from fully integrated HCIT as the backbone of any healthcare system are enormous. It will optimise processes so as to streamline operations, improve clinical quality and achieve evidence-based care.
Having said that, healthcare presents the most complex requirements for IT of any sector. Its intricate workflow interactions make digitisation more than just a technical or financial issue. That is why there is a compelling need for evidence-based evaluation of HCIT systems, to define their net benefits.
Currently, most HCIT is deployed in isolated systems and settings that do not interoperate. This makes the systematic evaluation and enhancement of care across medical cultures and practices difficult, to say the least. Standardisation of information exchange between differing vendors and computer systems is a key challenge. Vendors and payers recognise that interoperability is important. Vital and detailed work, and good progress, has been made over the past 10 years in the development of global standards. Although complex, interoperability is not toughest challenge for HCIT. Much harder is the semantic problem of how to interpret a diagnosis, preventative methodology or treatment in one culture, and apply the information in a different medical culture, or language.
In order to provide personalized healthcare effectively, insurance companies and reimbursement agencies that meet the health bills, as well as governments, must work with the industry to provide a consistent regulatory framework as well as incentives for healthcare providers to adopt broad-based and integrated HCIT.
Dr Alan Davies is Chief Medical Officer, EMEA, for GE Healthcare
To read the published opinion piece, click here