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Jul 04, 2022

En Route to Interoperability:
Perfecting a Digital Health Ecosystem

Estimated reading time: 2-4 minutes

Philips, Berlin Institute of Health, and Australian Digital Health Agency discuss the importance of interoperability in perfecting a digital health ecosystem at HIMSS APAC Health CIO Summit 2022. 

Singapore – Interoperability is a critical component within a robust digital health ecosystem. Even as health systems across APAC are at different stages of connectivity, there are some areas that should be prioritized to achieve greater interoperability. 

At the HIMSS APAC Health CIO Summit 2022, Jan van Zoest, Chief Architect, Royal Philips, discussed the interoperability challenges faced by healthcare leaders and how having the right partner is critical to navigating those barriers to interoperability. Jan was joined at the session ‘En Route to Interoperability: Perfecting a Digital Health Ecosystem’ by Prof. Sylvia Thun, Director of the Core Unit eHealth and Interoperability, Berlin Institute of Health, and Dr Malcolm Thatcher, Chief Technology Officer, Australian Digital Health Agency.

Overcoming barriers to advancing interoperability
While public and private healthcare players are aligned on the importance of interoperability when building a robust digital health ecosystem, achieving interoperability remains a challenge. Silos in healthcare delivery, policy and regulatory gaps, concerns about data security and identity, and existing fragmented solutions create more problems than improvements.

Dr Malcolm and Prof. Sylvia shared their experience from having pursued interoperability in different settings. Dr Malcolm Thatcher shared that while Australia’s interoperability journey has spanned over 10 years, challenges persist. Its healthcare ecosystem, like many other countries, is complex, with multiple stakeholders within both public and private healthcare providers across primary and tertiary care. It is not the agreement on the standards but the adoption by different players that has proven to be a challenge. Many primary care providers are struggling to invest in moving solutions to cloud, let alone achieve interoperability – thus slowing the process for all.

Prof Sylvia shared that while Germany is now ahead of many countries in being able to enhance interoperability within its healthcare system, many healthcare providers lacked experience and expertise in the area when they initially began the journey. Additionally, because there were significant concerns about data security, attempts to obtain data from the public to improve care delivery also proved challenging. 

Jan explained that while it is exciting that the region’s healthcare systems are committed towards expanding care settings, this must be done strategically to avoid fragmented point solutions that can cause blind spots in patient care, and workflow bottlenecks, resulting in higher costs. Healthcare IT systems face a deluge of patient data, often split among various specialties, departments and sites. He elaborated more on how enabling smooth data exchange across healthcare players is key to streamline clinical workflows and improve care collaboration, sharing that several healthcare enterprises and health systems have created connected suites of information systems to drive efficiency and enhance the quality of care. 

However, in digitizing the health sector, there is also a big expectation for cost control without compromising the quality of care in a region as complex as APAC. This calls for healthcare providers to identify and collaborate with the right partner to advance the interoperability journey and ensure enterprise level efficiency, while acknowledging the unique needs of each organization. 

Combining enterprise level efficiency with diagnostic imaging expertise can enable healthcare providers with simple and secure data integration across specialties and between institutions, allowing clinicians to make better precision diagnoses. The right partner can integrate clinical workflows to ensure that the systems are vendor neutral and multi-vendor positive too, allowing interoperability to be achieved without the need to change vendors. Interoperability solutions that can empower a variety of vendors across various platforms for seamless flow of information across care settings are the need for the hour to establish trust among major healthcare IT and clinical players. 

With the right policy framework and public-private partnerships being vital in creating changes towards better healthcare, the public sector across APAC can work hand in hand with experienced partners that enable the implementation of localized standards and can impart valuable insights throughout their journey in interoperability.

For achieving interoperability, strategic partnerships play a crucial role as they not only help organizations to reduce costs and improve efficiencies but can also enable healthcare providers with the insights to forecast needs, right-size care, and drive proactive action,”

Mr. Jan van Zoest

Chief Architect, Royal Philips

We need to have a common language. Physicians see that their language is within the language of the digital world as well. We can then exchange information and data sets all around the globe. Using the language of healthcare providers helps them feel that they are seen. Without doing this step, digitalization would not work,” 

Prof Sylvia Thun

Director of the Core Unit eHealth and Interoperability, Berlin Institute of Health, Germany

The standards tend to be the simpler part; it is getting the buy-in from the ecosystem participants to the adoption and providing the right tools to make it [interoperability] a reality for stakeholders to participate confidently while ensuring security that is paramount. We have to demonstrate the value of interoperability to clinicians to get them to drive the adoption of interoperability standards,”

Dr Malcolm Thatcher

Chief Technology Officer, Australian Digital Agency, Australia

The right partner to achieve dynamic patient care


The hospital of the future is a part of a connected care network with flexible capacity, enabled by a unified digital infrastructure.

As organizations look to streamline workflows and improve care collaboration by enabling smooth data exchange across healthcare players, partners such as Philips bring deep experience and expertise to be a strategic partner through the stages of the health continuum. Vendors from different platforms can work quickly and effectively to organize and distribute patient data, resulting in clinical teams gaining easy access to information that supports their decision. At Philips, we understand the vital role we play in achieving this vision, through interoperability, AI and other health innovations that can improve efficiencies, reducing costs, and ensure more dynamic patient care. 

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Yi Xian Tan

Brand & Communications Manager APAC


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