Founded in 2018 by six of South Africa’s leading hospital groups and medical scheme administrators, the CareConnect Health Information Exchange (HIE) is designed to help make a meaningful difference in healthcare outcomes. It is underpinned by the InterSystems HealthShare advanced interoperability platform used by healthcare sector organisations globally to assist with the effective, safe, and reliable sharing of patient information.
Henry Adams, country manager of InterSystems
But why is having such an exchange so important?
Healthcare providers worldwide find it challenging to balance spiraling costs with delivering consistent, high-quality patient outcomes. Fortunately, the growing adoption of technology solutions within the sector has seen the development of health information exchanges in the United States, across Europe, and now with CareConnect, in Africa.
At the heart of these exchanges is the concept of unified care. This empowers providers to securely integrate patient care records with patient indices while still safeguarding personal data. In doing so, the sector can collate data to deliver analytics and improve the healthcare environment of a country. One only needs to turn to the US, arguably the most mature HIE market in the world, to gain vital insights into the trajectory of CareConnect in South Africa.
Stakeholders throughout the healthcare industry want to be part of an HIE but tend to view things from their perspectives when it comes to data ownership. As more role players start getting involved, a tipping point occurs where the data begins living in the exchange to create a strategic asset that all can use.
Of course, the enormous amount of data sources in healthcare adds complexity, especially when it comes to trying to unify everything. Thanks to advanced technologies like the InterSystems HealthShare platform, this integration is a steppingstone to creating strategic value. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an obvious use case for the benefits of hospitals, clinics, and other service providers having access to a centralised data resource containing patient information. But there are others. Just consider the positive impact an HIE can have to deliver care when there is a natural disaster like flooding.
While it is still early days, CareConnect can be the catalyst for supporting innovative programmes that improve healthcare across public and private spaces. An additional value-add from an HIE is that it can start small but rapidly grow to deliver a unified care programme.
Comprising two modules, HealthShare Unified Care Record and HealthShare Patient Index, the InterSystems platform gathers the information that matters. It connects providers, patients, and payers through a unified care record that delivers comprehensive analytics across the entire healthcare value chain.
Even before one can look at deploying an HIE, the elephant in the room must be addressed – complying with global and national standards and certifications around data privacy and security. The InterSystems platform is standard by design. It ensures the integration and interoperability of health applications and data with a commitment to privacy and consent standards such as HIPPA (USA), GDPR (Europe and UK) and POPIA (South Africa), while also making use of FHIR, HL7, IHE, and other global healthcare information protocols and messaging formats. This means that the patient data is always protected.
It is only when the data of a health system is harmonised that it can run analytics to inform more robust decision making. CareConnect creates the impetus to do this in SA. Traditionally, health systems face significant data latency and duplication challenges. Yes, companies have invested in everything from data warehouses to dashboards and predictive models but because these tools are limited by scalability, integration and workflow challenges, the likes of clinical, claims and other data remain siloed.
The ability to see, in real-time, a patient’s history and care regime regardless of the service provider used might therefore sound like science fiction. And yet, that is exactly what an HIE like CareConnect will do, resulting in improved decisioning and reduced costs while enhancing patient care. Imagine the possibilities for clinical departments across the country. The interoperable environment delivered through CareConnect and InterSystems enables specialists to identify previously hidden correlations leading to better patient outcomes.
Throughout all this, the patient must remain front and centre. The HIE lives and dies by how effective it is in bridging the data integration gap with analysis that brings relevant insights that can save lives, improve care, and keep costs as affordable as possible.
Using an HIE to identify at-risk patients using an interoperable platform ensures that clinical data can be pulled together from any number of sources. For example, a provider might discover a patient with diabetes who is overdue for an eye exam, which aids the early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blindness. Think of the hub as linking all data in partnership with healthcare organisations to develop insights that can be broadly applied to all patients in the ecosystem. This means that a process that began with one patient can deliver patient-driven insights that can apply to all people using healthcare in the country.