South Africa has launched its first industry-wide Health Information Exchange, CareConnect, emanating from the private health sector, marking a prominent milestone in its history. The CareConnect Health Information Exchange was founded by six leading hospital groups in the country, and has been in development for the last two years. The HIE has been launched to encourage collaboration across the private healthcare sector.
With this collaboration, clinical information and data will be shared, with a goal to improve patient care and efficacy in the health sector.
The CEO of CareConnect, Dr. Rolan Christian believes that CareConnect is a necessary innovation that will enhance a coordinated health system with a secure, reliable and unified digital platform.
Dr. Christian also added that the CareConnect HIE will permit clinicians to access real-time, up-to-date and consolidated clinical information about their patients progress through the healthcare ecosystem, which will in turn improve quality, speed and coordination of care.
The Health Information Exchange will enable and ensure secure, speedy electronic transfer of information between hospitals, insurers and other service providers, thereby providing better patient care and practitioner support.
Chairman of CareConnect, Mathew Prior, said that there was recognition by hospitals and medical scheme administrators that better efficacy could be achieved by providing clinicians with accurate patient information as and when required. He also said that the need for an integrated approach to healthcare was an important driver for developing the Health Information Exchange (HIE).
CareConnect can mean the difference between life and death
HIE’s provide a holistic set of patient clinical information in everyday clinical situations, by saving time for clinicians, minimizing medical errors, and also decreasing the cost of healthcare by avoiding duplicate and unnecessary tests.
The participation of health professionals will therefore be key to the future development of the CareConnect HIE to ensure that the system continues to add value to their work.
Access to the HIE can mean the difference between life and death for patients in an emergency situation or while travelling, since the treating team will be able to access critical healthcare information wherever they are, using any device, said Dr. Christian.
Security and confidentiality of information are cornerstones of the CareConnect HIE which conforms to both local and international data privacy regulations, such as ISO 27001/27701 and Popia. In addition to these strict data privacy and governance standards, all participants in the HIE have signed data privacy agreements that govern the purposes for which information can be used.
Dr. Christian added that information always remains protected, and can only be accessed by authorized users. Health information can only be accessed by medical practitioners when necessary, and only with the patients consent, said Dr. Christian while referring to data privacy concerns.
The CareConnect HIE has been built on an internationally recognized platform named InterSystems HealthShare, which has been widely used for the development of HIE’s across the world. CareConnect will provide interoperability between different systems, like clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, radiology clinics, pathology labs and doctors’ practice management systems.
Dr Christian stated that this development was a good indicator of the future of healthcare, since it allows the secure integration of information from various sources.
He also said that HIE has become imperative for governments around the world to address health system fragmentation and better coordination of care. The system is already in use in countries like England, China, Scotland, India, Switzerland and the US.
Adding that though the CareConnect HIE is still in its infancy, Dr Christian said that the number of transactions are growing, with many organizations deriving value from the HIE, through streamlines hospital admissions and new efficacies in the system.