E-medical record must be about business

update Countries should manage deployment of electronic medical record systems like business projects, or risk having such plans being placed as low priority.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--Run an electronic medical record (EMR) implementation project like a business project, not an IT initiative, advised a top executive from a healthcare organization.

Steven Yeo, vice president and executive director of HIMSS Asia-Pacific, said such projects should be regarded as a "business initiative with an IT component".

Healthcare organizations that fail to do so will end up placing their EMR projects on a lower priority to other business implementations that are driven by the executive board, Yeo said, during his address at the inaugural Hospital Build Asia 2009 conference here Thursday. Founded in 1961, HIMSS, or Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is a global healthcare industry group focusing on healthcare IT issues and currently has over 20,000 individual and 350 corporate members

Projects of large scale such as EMR implementations, need CEO involvement and cannot be driven solely by the CIO, unless the CIO is also managing director on the board, Yeo said. Even then, it may not guarantee the success of project, he noted.

Raymond Chong, managing director and CEO of Thai hospital group, Samitivej, said hospital administrators cannot look at technology deployments as the basis of how their healthcare services should evolve.

"Technology shouldn't influence healthcare decisions," Chong said. "We should look at where we want healthcare to be and develop [technology] toward that [direction]."

The industry should, therefore, look at how technology may evolve to support its aspirations, he said. as a result, Chong expects technology to play an increasingly bigger role in healthcare.

Yeo said spending on IT within the healthcare sector is much smaller than that of the industry's overall expenditure, but is expected to ramp up. This is aided in part by global governments' fund injections, such as U.S. President Barack Obama's pledge to set aside funds for healthcare, he said.

According to Frost and Sullivan statistics provided by conference organizer IIR Asia-Pacific, the total healthcare revenue in the Asia-Pacific region was US$239.9 billion in 2008, with the industry expected to grow by 5 percent to 10 percent this year.

In 2007, Singapore announced plans to build an EMR system in a bid to consolidate patient medical records, and enable such data to be shared securely between doctors in public and private sectors. It joins other regions including the United States and European Union, that have also embarked on EMR initiatives.

Singapore's Ministry of Health Holdings CIO, Dr. Sarah Muttitt, said last year the country's EMR system needed improvements, and that the Singapore needs to push digital investments up to 4 percent to 5 percent of total spend for the next five years to keep up with technological advancements.

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