Hospitals and the information challenge

Recently, Ge released its inaugural annual report on healthymagination, the company’s global business strategy for achieving sustainable health.

By Aziz Koleilat

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Published: Sat 13 Nov 2010, 10:29 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:58 AM

The report details the significant progress and milestones since its launch in May 2009, including 135 million lives touched through 24 innovative products and services, a $700 million investment in R&D and a $250 million investment in an equity fund focused on growing healthcare technology companies.

Around the world, the idea of personalised healthcare — a combination of preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that provide more precision to healthcare management and clinical outcomes — is gaining ground.

In principle, the idea has been around for a long time. Since the Egyptian Imhotep — credited as the earliest named physician in history — first codified healing 4,500 years ago, medicine has always taken notice of presentation and symptoms.

The genomics revolution is providing new insights into the complexity of diseases we once thought of as single conditions. In the 1920s, for example, there were only two diagnoses for patients with bruising and fatigue: leukemia or lymphoma. Now we know of around 38 types of leukemia and 51 types of lymphoma, and the number is increasing each year.

Each type is characterised by a distinct molecular profile, and the diagnostic guidance these profiles provide enables more specific, personalised treatment to be given. This example highlights the explosion of knowledge and the pace of innovation that is inherent in personalised healthcare.

Across the Middle East region, we are at a time when the need for enterprise-wide IT solutions is playing a crucial role in the fast developing healthcare markets. With digital data management, costs are kept under control, increasing both productivity and efficiency while at the same time promoting patient safety.

At GE we believe that healthcare IT (HCIT) will be the game changer for personalised healthcare — increasing consistency, advancing protocol-driven, evidence-based medicine and delivering knowledge and healthcare at the bedside. An HCIT infrastructure of comprehensive electronic health records, tied into patient-specific care, will improve healthcare productivity and reduce medical errors.

We know that the potential gains from fully integrated HCIT as the backbone of any healthcare system are enormous. This is particularly relevant to the Middle East region, which continues to make significant investments in healthcare infrastructure — new as well as improvements to existing healthcare facilities by integrating the latest in healthcare IT.

The introduction of these new innovative technologies correlates perfectly with GE’s healthymagination initiative and focus on the ‘earlier model’ of health care, where the emphasis is on earlier diagnosis, especially, of the ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as diabetes and stress, which are fast-growing in this region, according to estimates.

Healthcare presents the most complex requirements for IT of any sector. IT solutions are the glue that holds together all the various types of medical specialties in a hospital. That is a real challenge in itself.

Thanks to IT, medical experts ranging from CT (Computed Tomography), MR (Magnetic Resonance) or even in practice areas like dermatology, pathology or ophthalmology, are able to extract clinically relevant information from complex data sets.

Across the Middle East as well as in Europe, the future of healthcare will focus on building large healthcare networks. Only by bringing resources together will healthcare experts be able to deliver high quality patient care. Having all medical information coming together into one centralised archive allows immediate access to all necessary patient information at the time it is needed — any time, anywhere.

Furthermore, from patient care to administration, clinical workflow to the billing and revenue phase, all users need comprehensive information in order to effectively and seamlessly communicate across hospital departments.

Meaningful change is not in simply replacing paper-based systems and records. As the first step towards higher-performance practice, healthcare systems must improve healthcare productivity at an appropriate cost, for as many patients as possible.

Aziz Koleilat is General Manager at GE Healthcare for the Middle East region. The views expressed in this column are his own and not necessarily that of the organisation.

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