by Peter Bugeja, Customer Success Director 6PM

Decisions taken today must be sustainable tomorrow.

In the context of provisioning information technology business solutions within the vastly complicated and challenging health sector the above statement is highly pertinent.

No one can argue that coherent and integrated health systems are a need that has now become a must in today’s world. The following trends speak for themselves:

  1. Ever increasing cost of healthcare
  2. Life expectancy is increasing due to improved healthcare
  3. Increasing move from paper to electronic patient records
  4. Increase in patient empowerment over their own health records
  5. Demands from regional to national information sharing and access
  6. Demands for a more improved primary care integrated with both community and secondary care

All the above is not pie in the sky. This is what is happening and many also aspire to achieve. These are the challenges of today. Challenges that place responsibility on all stakeholders for ensuring right decisions are taken and delivered. There are therefore questionable benefits for anyone moving with ‘closed’ or ‘proprietary’ solutions whereby the system characteristics remain tied to one particular supplier and are inherently difficult to interoperate.

It is therefore no surprise that we talk about open-system architecture whereby standard protocols are followed. The benefits are abundant especially with so many disparate systems.

Health Level 7 International (HL7) is an organization dedicated to developing international standards for the exchange of electronic health information. HL7 improves the interoperability of software applications increasingly used within the healthcare industry. Following a standard protocol provides the advantage of connecting to any system that supports this particular standard, more importantly now and in the future.

It is also true that standards must be practical and appropriate to the current needs otherwise they will be rejected, not used nor followed. So far HL7 has been highly successful in the transfer, exchange, interface and sharing of medical information safely and securely. Its impact has been significant and continues to be so. We now expect to see more innovation in the next HL7 versions. Time will tell.

So this brings me back to the opening statement: ‘decisions taken today must be sustainable tomorrow’. Taking decisions in todays’ health sector and ignoring the perils of non-interoperability may be cheaper initially,’ but will be unsustainable operationally to meet the demands of tomorrow. HL7 is an instrument that that has served its purpose well over the past years, interesting how it will evolve in the coming years.