a health information exchange for SA

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The launch of the first industry-wide Health Information Exchange (HIE) in South Africa, originating from the private health sector, marks a milestone in its history.
The CareConnect HIE has been in development for two years and was founded by six of the nation’s leading hospital groups and medical plan administrators to foster collaboration in the private healthcare sector.

Through this collaboration, clinical data and information will be shared with the ultimate goal of improving patient care and efficiency in the healthcare industry.

Dr. Rolan Christian, CEO of CareConnect, believes that the HIE CareConnect, like other HIEs around the world, is a necessary innovation that will support a coordinated healthcare system through a reliable, secure and unified digital platform.

“The CareConnect HIE will enable clinicians to access up-to-date, real-time and consolidated clinical information about their patients’ journey through the healthcare ecosystem, improving the speed, quality and coordination of care,” says Dr. Christian.

Essentially, the HIE will enable fast and secure electronic transfer of information between hospitals, medical plans or insurers and other health service providers in the interest of better patient care and patient support. real-time practitioners.

“Early on, hospital groups and medical plan administrators recognized that greater efficiency could be achieved by providing clinicians with relevant and meaningful patient information when and where they need it,” adds the president of the CareConnect Board of Directors Matthew Avant, saying the need for a more integrated approach to healthcare in the private sector was a key driver in the development of the HIE.

An essential time saver

In everyday clinical situations, HIEs provide a holistic set of clinical patient information, allowing clinicians to save valuable time, reduce medical errors, and reduce healthcare costs by avoiding duplicate testing. and unnecessary.

The involvement of healthcare professionals will therefore be essential to the future development of the CareConnect HIE to ensure that the system continues to add value to their work.

“For patients, access to the HIE can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency or while traveling, as the attending physician will be able to access critical and up-to-date health information in real time, on any device, be it a laptop, mobile phone or tablet, wherever they are,” says Dr. Christian.

Since going live in late 2021, over 3.2 million patients have provided consent to share their data with the HIE, and since October last year, these patients have created over 27 million clinical data transactions. available on the HIE.

Information security and privacy are cornerstones of the CareConnect HIE which complies with local and international data privacy regulations, such as ISO 27001/27701 and Popia. In addition to these strict data privacy and governance standards, all HIE participants have signed data privacy agreements that govern the purposes for which the information may be used.

“The information always remains protected and is accessible only to authorized users. Sensitive information, such as health information, can only be accessed by practicing physicians when medically necessary and only with patient consent,” concludes Dr. Christian.

Built on an internationally recognized technology platform, called InterSystems HealthShare, which has been widely used in the development of HIEs around the world, the CareConnect HIE will enable interoperability between different systems, such as medical plan administrators, clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, radiology practices, pathology laboratories and clinician practice management systems.

“This bodes well for the future of the entire healthcare system, as it will allow for the safe integration of information from a variety of sources,” says Dr. Christian.

A bridge with the public health sector

Although starting in the private sector, CareConnect also believes the HIE provides a bridge to the public health sector. A good example is the recognition by the South African government of the importance of digitalization in improving access to quality health care and in its National Digital Health Strategy for South Africans (2019-2024)which outlines the main objectives for achieving efficiencies, including:

– the digitization of the operational processes of health systems to improve efficiency and quality at the institutional level for access to human resources and medicines, and

– establish an integrated platform and architecture for the health sector information system, which will ensure interoperability and interconnection of existing patient-oriented information systems.

“The HIE is becoming a political imperative for many governments to address healthcare system fragmentation and better coordination of care, and is already used by many advanced healthcare systems around the world, including China, England, India, Scotland, Switzerland and the United States.

“While the CareConnect HIE is still in its infancy, the number of transactions continues to grow, with founding member organizations already beginning to realize value from the HIE through streamlined hospital admissions procedures and introducing new efficiencies into their systems,” concludes Dr Christian.

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