HIMSS21 APAC started with Benedict Tan, Group Chief Digital Strategy Officer and Chief Data Officer at SingHealth in Singapore sharing that with COVID-19, it has become urgent to reimagine better health systems, to future-proof healthcare, and to harness ingenuity with digital technologies.
He went on to say that many significant digital health developments have taken place in the Asia-Pacific recently, in areas such as personalised healthcare and innovative healthcare. Additionally, in a HIMSS APAC digital health survey published earlier this year, it was found that Australia, South Korea and Singapore were role models for digital health in the region.
Hal Wolf, President and CEO of HIMSS mentioned that before the pandemic, digital health tools like telemedicine were critical as they addressed geographic displacement, providing increased access to urban and rural areas.
“The pandemic changed our perceptions of how to incorporate digital health – a simple example is the increased use of telehealth of outpatient appointments,” he said.
He added that COVID-19 also exposed a lack of meaningful health data, and has provided the opportunity for health systems to improve population health information, to be both responsive and predictive.
“The pandemic has combined with other pressing issues on the horizon such as a vast ageing population, increased prevalence of chronic disease, and a diminishing healthcare workforce,” Wolf explained.
“Now it is more critical than ever to create a comprehensive, and resilient global health ecosystem and it is essential that we shift our focus to future-proofing through digital health technologies and other innovative solutions.”
Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Health in Singapore shared that digital disruption in healthcare may not happen as quickly as other industries. Significant policy, regulatory and public confidence issues need to be addressed before digital technology can be fully harnessed to transform and improve healthcare systems around the world.
Three matters of public policy are of immediate concern, according to Minister Ong. These are population health, healthcare IT infrastructure, and data privacy.
“The management of chronic illnesses in particular, should be preventive, and done at the primary care level… This is conceptually a very sound approach, but it requires the government to rethink its approach to design and resource the healthcare ecosystem,” he explained.
“It also means that patient care will need to be carried out seamlessly across different settings, in the community as well as institutions, in social agencies and also in hospitals.”
In the area of healthcare IT infrastructure, he shared that legacy IT infrastructure issues lead to data being siloed within individual healthcare organisations, therefore being unable to interoperate.
“Today, we have a technical and system solution to break down the information silos among care providers, mostly from public healthcare institutions, with participation of some private healthcare providers,” he said.
“We are working to enhance this current IT infrastructure. Beyond summary records, the sharing of care teams’ assessments and patients’ care plans will enable a common understanding of the condition and the needs of the patient. This will enhance patient care.”
Regarding data privacy, Minister Ong mentioned that while it is important to respect the sensitivity of health information, a “mindset of absolute medical confidentiality is no more suitable”.
He explained that there is a need to develop policies and regulations on sharing personal health information, in a controlled way that serves the noble objectives of better healthcare, but prevents misuse.
“[These] are some of the immediate policy-related concerns as we seek to harness digital technology to improve the health of our population. It is one aspect of the exciting universe of opportunities. The pandemic has made some of these opportunities very evident, such as the use of telemedicine, the importance of primary and preventive care, the primacy of self-responsibility,” he said.
“And so we are at a crossroads in the use of healthcare IT in the digital transformation of healthcare.”
The HIMSS21 APAC Conference will take place today and tomorrow and is free for all healthcare providers. All sessions can be accessed on-demand for 45 days following the event. Register here.