(MENAFN - Arab News) As Saudi Arabia advances toward greater use of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) across its health system, the president of Orion Healthcare, New Zealand's largest software exporter with 14 offices worldwide and customers in more than 30 countries, emphasized the need for a progressive migration approach through a robust integration strategy.
Arab News met with Charles Scatchard, who stressed the Kingdom might use international experience in IT to face the challenge of chronic condition care, to improve patient health and reduce the overall cost of care.
Excerpts from the interview:
Arab News: As the president of International at Orion Health, in what way do you see a future cooperation between the company and the Saudi Ministry of Health, and is the ministry approaching you for consultancy with regards to developing its profile?
Charles Scatchard: As a major supplier of IT integration technology to hospitals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have a positive relationship with the Ministry of Health. At an international level, Orion Health has extensive experience in delivering e-health infrastructure projects at regional and national levels, for example the national Electronic Health Record in Singapore. These projects have been delivered either on our own, or with national and local partners. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the national e-health strategy is set to expand significantly in the next few years, we believe our international experience will continue to be very relevant.
AN: Applying technology and EHR, and EMR helps reduce errors in the health care field, but do you see that health care staff and personnel are skillful in applying it and do you provide training in this direction?
Scatchard: The most important factor in any health IT project is to ensure the clinicians and health care staff are engaged from the start. If the clinicians don't see the value in IT, they won't use it effectively. Our experience internationally shows that the most successful IT projects involve both a technology implementation and a shift in modes of working by clinicians themselves.
Regarding training, we like to train a small team within the health care organization on our software, so afterward the organization is capable of training its own staff. The best people to train medical staff are their own peers, who are other medical staff.
AN: Orion has applied RHIO for the last 10 years in Europe, Canada, Asia and the USA. In what way do you think it's applicable in the GCC countries and the region, and does it help in linking the region in the field?
Scatchard: Regardless of where they are in world, health care providers face similar challenges, and the GCC countries are no exception. One of the most important trends globally is the level of care now being delivered outside the hospital. Increasingly, the burden of care for individual patients is being shared between multiple providers and facilities, and this requires effective sharing of data, as well as coordination of care.
Where e-health solutions such as Orion Health can help is to support better care not only in the hospital, but also across an entire "care network" across a region or nation. A true e-health strategy needs to involve hospitals, family doctors, health clinics, laboratories, home health nurses, the patients themselves, and their families. We think that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has immense potential to move very quickly in this direction.
AN: How does Rhapsody work and does it link hospitals through exchanging information of patients?
Scatchard: Rhapsody is an Integration Engine - it sits at the center of multiple information systems, to allow rapid and secure exchange of data between them. This could be patient billing information, clinical data, images, lab results or documents. Rhapsody is "technology neutral." It can exchange data between systems from any vendor, using many different technical standards. Rhapsody has been implemented within more than 700 hospital sites around the world - such as King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh.
Rhapsody also works at the level of regions, where multiple hospitals need to exchange information in a secure and coordinated manner. For example, we are a supplier to several regional Health Ministries in Spain, who use Rhapsody as the data messaging "hub" to ensure that the right information is shared with the right facilities and health professionals, at the right time. These networks involve dozens of hospitals.
At international level, Rhapsody is also used in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC uses Rhapsody to provide a bio-surveillance infrastructure, ensuring the flow of reports from state and local laboratories to the national CDC center in Atlanta Georgia. These reports include data on infectious diseases as well as potential incidents involving bio-terrorism.
AN: In 2008, King Fahd Medical City was the first to adopt Orion's Rhapsody system. Did other hospitals in the Kingdom approach you since then, and why wasn't that used in other hospitals for the last four years?
Scatchard: Rhapsody has been extensively deployed in the Kingdom. King Fahd Medical City was one of our first customers, and has been making impressive use of the system for five years. Since our arrival in the Kingdom, we have been doing continual new business with Saudi hospitals. Rhapsody customers include National Guard Health Affairs, King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, KFMC, and Riyadh Military Hospital. Alongside other GCC nations such as Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia is a significant and growing market for our Rhapsody Integration Engine.
AN: What other areas of cooperation does Orion present to the health care system in the Kingdom?
Scatchard: One area for which Orion Health has specific solutions is the management of chronic conditions. It is no secret that the Kingdom has increasing levels of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease, across the population. The Ministry of Health clearly recognizes this challenge.
Once again, international experience provides a good guide for how the Kingdom might use IT to face the challenge of chronic condition care - to improve patient health and reduce the overall cost of care.
We have a number of success stories from around the world, in leading health economies such as Canada, New Zealand and Spain. In these countries our software has been used to create shared "clinical pathways" for patients with chronic conditions. These pathways can involve multiple health professionals and help ensure that care is delivered based on best practice guidelines. These sorts of programs are proven to improve patient health status, and importantly reduce costly unplanned hospital attendance.