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A Prescription for Health e-Innovation: HIMSS Europe 2019

Helsinki Cathedral in Kelsinki, Finland

“The pharmacist got the raw material for his work either from the local traders, who had contacts with foreign lands and had access to exotic products and medicaments, or from people living in the countryside…Sometimes the pharmacist cultivated his own herbs.”

From the description of an apothecary’s garden first mentioned in 1452

Immediately after the recent HIMSS and Health2.0 European Conference held in Helsinki, I visited Raeapteek, one of the oldest continuously operating pharmacies in Europe. For me, the quote above, from an historical exhibit, summed up the whole of the conference – we cultivate our eHealth garden with a combination of the innovative and the ordinary, from the knowledge and experience of both our local and our global health communities. That blending and compounding of perspectives was in evidence throughout the event.

A few of the thoughts I gathered:

Standards matter – In his exposition on the role of government in inspiring change, Erik Gerritsen, Vice Minister at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport for The Netherlands, described interoperability and standards as the way we express our values and shape technology. When we enforce privacy, respect consent, and ensure that information flows meaningfully, we empower ethical innovation.

Mine the information assets – We need to make more effective use of our data investments. Finland, which has a long history of health information gathering, wants to be a testbed for the innovative use of health and social care data, in part, so Finnish citizens can benefit from early access to the results.

Walls no longer matter – Every health IT exhibit seems to include a larger percentage of devices to move care beyond the hospital walls. This one was no exception, and various national pavilions were there to showcase the creative thinking of their citizens. The only downside for me is that too few of these devices are, as yet, solidly connected to the larger health and care ecosystem.

We still need to figure out engagement – Despite inspirational speakers and some really neat apps and approaches, patient engagement still seems the exception rather than the rule. The vision of co-design promulgated by patient advocates isn’t a reality in most health and care initiatives.

We needn’t wait – Dr. James Reed, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist of the UK’s Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust and MERIT Vanguard, discussed the value of information sharing even amongst entities with limited digital maturity. When a patient is in crisis, even simple demographics and the name of the care manager can make a huge difference.

Of course, my other takeaway is that I’m really glad I live in the age of digital health and modern pharmacopeias. I’d prefer not to be prescribed an infusion of wood louse, scorched hedgehogs, or stallion hooves!

wall decor in a vintage style

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