For some time now we’ve had talks about a National Health Insurance fund and while there are many facets to this push for healthcare for all, something that needs addressing is how siloed the healthcare system is.

That’s not to say that all healthcare facilities are lonely entities floating in a sea of healthcare providers but for the most part, there is a lack of technology and by extension, the benefits technology brings with it.

So perhaps its time to re-evaluate the healthcare ecosystem and push toward change from the siloed approach that is all to common in the sector.

Healthcare facilities are primed for a tech upgrade and healthcare sales executive at T-Systems South Africa, Shiraaz Joosub, has some ideas about how these facilities can create sustainable interoperability.

Interestingly, something Joosub says is important is transparency though not of patient records, obviously.

“Transparency in healthcare is particularly crucial to the patient and generally refers to providing information on a healthcare system’s quality, efficiency and consumer experience. It is with the intent to influence the behaviour of all stakeholders of the healthcare ecosystem to achieve better outcomes, in terms of quality and cost of care,” Joosub explains.

How does one get to this transparency? Technology of course but unfortunately it’s not actually that simple.

Healthcare providers and facilities would all have to agree on using an integrated network of healthcare services. This means standardising business processes and adopting standards across a range of healthcare services.

“For South Africa to move to a sustainable interoperable model of healthcare delivery, it needs a healthcare interoperability framework that defines the normative data standards required to provide transparent healthcare services, as well as a unified integrated healthcare information system that can provide a standard scalable and portable electronic health record,” explains the executive.

For smaller entities, change might not be as big of a deal from an operational stand point. For a larger insurance firm however, change may not be so simple and legacy systems could pose a problem.

The funny thing is we already have a system such as the one described by Joosub.

LogBox allows a patient to complete paper records, digitally. This digital profile can then be easily shared by patients with doctors or hospitals.

But the fact that LogBox isn’t ubiquitous shows us that interoperability is a nice word that many institutions don’t seem to know about.

Of course, we’re not saying that LogBox is perfect (it isn’t) but the fact that a solution exists and isn’t being adopted speaks volumes about the attitude to sharing information.

The skills problem

While interoperability is a great goal to work towards, there needs to be a human element that helps reach that goal.

That means we need skilled South Africans to help build these solutions and most importantly, maintain them.

Recent data breaches in South Africa highlight the urgency with which cybersecurity needs to be implemented within all industries. If we are to build an interoperable system it, and processes to access that system, have to be incredibly secure. The last thing we’d want is somebody pretending to be a director of a company in order to get access to very sensitive data.

The funny thing is, COVID-19 might be an unintended proving ground for a system such as this.

Track and trace systems around the world help governments identify potential outbreak zones giving them time to react before it’s too late.

This is accomplished with the help of technology and a centralised system.

Of course we could talk for days about single points of failure but perhaps track and trace will help us understand how an interoperable system for healthcare might work.

What is clear is that technology means we don’t have to fill out forms for the hundredth time when visiting the doctor.

So why then are we still doing that?

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]