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Interoperability within healthcare is needed now more than ever

Many of our healthcare facilities still run legacy systems that operate in silos, which means that when moving data, it needs to go through a streamlining process first. As this information is raw data, it might not correspond with other system architectures, meaning that information might not be in a format that can be used or read.

Secondly, the cost of deploying technology solutions in the healthcare sector today remains high, resulting in many organisations not positioning technology solutions as part of their key strategic objectives, because these are seen as an expense. This means that many hospitals still run a paper-driven environment.

It is crucial that the information in healthcare application frameworks be easily communicated across other facilities. Therefore, these facilities need to ensure they follow and are in line with an international standard – an interoperable framework.

Problematic paper-based environments

As we battle to contain the current global pandemic, it has never before been more clearly demonstrated how problematic the paper-based environment in our healthcare sector has become.

For example, where healthcare has been virtualised and mobile healthcare workforces have been mobilised, these remote workforces have experienced massive challenges with access to data for patient management. We have seen that the huge impact on these teams is as a result of them not being able to view virtual patient records, both from an administrative and clinical side.

So, at the centre of it all is data, the essential information that – if paper-based – is not sitting on a database or technical framework that can be utilised or analysed to provide better care and to improve processes, services and ultimately the patient experience.

Hence, interoperability plays a big role in the ability to effectively utilise data and how it is shared between technology systems and users. As our country tries to battle the pandemic, the lack of interoperability is creating challenges for our healthcare facilities to screen, test, trace and triage patients.

Urgent need to transform

There is an urgent need to move to a paperless and virtual environment, as our hospitals need to have the ability to mobilise data and information related to patients, not only within their own environments, but also to have the scalability to move this data to other healthcare providers.

Every hospital will eventually implement a digital business transformation plan and the need to start that journey is now more imperative than ever before. As we are stuck in the middle of battling this pandemic, unless we are able to leverage technology to virtualise our operations, we will not be able to sustain our current business models for much longer.

Information needs to be transmitted to a virtualised database that will provide access to government track and trace management of patients. Interoperability allows for that data to sit in a central repository and allows us to access manage patients better from a public health perspective.

The South African healthcare ecosystem is on the cusp of being compared to international benchmarks when it comes to interoperability. The efforts of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Department of Health to draft the Healthcare Normative Standards Framework is evidence that we are on the right path to building Integrated Delivery Networks for healthcare in both the private and public sectors.

By Shiraaz Joosub, Healthcare Sales Executive, T-Systems South Africa

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